Controversial "13 Reasons Why" series prompts local school to ta - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Controversial "13 Reasons Why" series prompts local school to take action

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BRODHEAD (WKOW) -- It's a series that's received mixed reaction. Netflix's "13 Reasons Why" takes on the topic surrounding suicide. 

The show tells the story of a 17-year-old girl who takes her own life, leaving behind 13 recordings for her friends that explain the reasons why she committed suicide. 

It's a show that's gaining popularity with teens across the nations, including in Wisconsin. The show now has the Brodhead School District warning parents. 

"I watched '13 Reasons Why' the day it came out," said sophomore Rhianna Teubert. "I know most of the people are watching it. They seem to like it." 

But some say the show glorifies suicide. Mental health experts are warning parents the series could lead to copy-cats, especially among students who suffer from mental illness. 

The Brodhead School District has experienced suicide among students in its past, but not in the last few years, according to district Superintendent Lenny Lueck. Still, the district's administration is taking on the initiative. They sent out a letter to parents about the possible impacts the show could have on their children and how best to address the topic with them.

Part of the letter also reminded parents the school district has staff trained in suicide prevention and support.

"I think it does glorify it a little bit, the way they portrayed the videos, or the tapes," Lueck said. "But I think it also does bring up the conversation."

It's a conversation Kayla Buttke says parents should be having with their children. Her little sister attends Brodhead High School and they both have watched the series and read the book it was based on.

"I think that it's something happening in middle schools and high schools and I think if we start talking about it younger, then maybe it wouldn't get to the point where people are super depressed and want to kill themselves," said Buttke.

For Buttke, the show triggered several emotions since she herself has suffered with depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder.

"If you are a parent and you aren't talking to your kid about stuff that needs to be talked about, then the feel like they have no one to talk to," she added. 

Meanwhile, school administrators in Brodhead are asking parents to evaluate the show before allowing their kids to see it. If they do end up allowing them to watch it, officials are asking parents to watch it with their children to help talk them through some of the scenes. 

There are several resources for anyone who may be contemplating suicide. Dane County has a crisis line at 608-280-2600. There's also a national prevention line at 1-800-273-TALK. There is also a hotline just for teenagers at 310-855-4673.

The following is the message sent to parents in Brodhead:

Dear Families,

We are writing to inform you about a Netflix series titled 13 Reasons Why and its possible impact on our students. The show is based on a novel and the story of a 17-year-old girl who takes her own life. She leaves behind 13 recordings explaining the reasons why she chose to commit suicide. While the show brings up the importance to talk about suicidal thoughts, it portrays situations where youth are dealing with serious issues, from bullying to sexual assault, without getting support from adults.

Our school psychologist, school nurse and counselors are trained in suicide prevention and supports and, unlike some of the adults in 13 Reasons Why, take all reports seriously.

You may wish to discuss the series, or thoughts of suicide, with your son or daughter. Talk to your child about what they can do if they have a friend that is expressing thoughts about hurting themselves. Remind your child that there is help available if they ever feel sad or depressed. Be sure your child has the hotline numbers listed below.

Please consider the age and developmental stage of your child before allowing them to watch the series. It is not recommended that youth with a history of suicidal thoughts, depression or mental health concerns watch 13 Reasons Why. If you do allow your child to watch this series, we recommend you watch it with them and discuss it afterwards. If your child has warning signs of depression or suicide, don’t be afraid to ask them if they have thoughts about suicide. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk. Instead, it decreases the risk by providing an opportunity for help. If your child is in need of assistance, please reach out to our school mental health staff.

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