Mental health professionals critical of Netflix series on teen suicide

Updated: May. 15, 2017 at 9:49 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - The hit Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" that tackles issues like teenage suicide, cyber bullying and sexual assault is facing harsh criticism from the local mental health industry.

Oschner pschiologist Dr. Jill West released a statement where she suggests the show "misses an opportunity" and "glamorizes" suicide.

The head of LSU Health Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Dr. Martin Drell echoed that sentiment.

"The main concern that we have is legitimizing, triggering, giving people ideas and re-enforcing, and that it is going to increase the people with suicidal thoughts and lead to actions," Drell said.

Drell warned of the contagion effect that can happen when someone commits suicide. Research suggests that when someone takes their own life, it is more likely that others who knew that person will attempt to do the same.

"13 Reasons Why" centers around a high school girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 recorded audiotapes to explain her reasons.

"People are concerned that kids are committing suicide all the time, and there is a certain contagion effect," Drell said. "You don't know how this will affect kids."

"The concern is there. the concern is legitimate. I agree with the concerns, but I think people need to be prepared for what they are about to see," said Rebecca Rainey with the Metropolitan Center for Woman and Children.

Reporter: "Because kids are going to watch it?"

Rainey: "Absolutely, it's on Netflix. It's not hard to get that."

Rainey said she believes the show could open a dialogue for children in need. She believes the series teaches parents about the warning signs of teenage suicide. Rainey suggests parents watch the thirteen episodes alone before possibly watching it with a child who is mature enough to discuss very graphic and disturbing subjects.

"You need to be one step ahead," Rainey said. "You need to be getting ahead of this so you're not sitting and watching this episode that even though they are really good about saying this scene contains blank, or this is an episode that has really harsh stuff in it. You need to see it before your kids see it."

But keeping children or teens away from the series altogether is what most in the mental health industry suggest.

"I haven't heard anybody say, 'Gee wiz, golly, this is a wonderful show for letting people know and be able to solve the suicide problem in America,'" Drell said.

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