Netflix has just released season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, the controversial show that made headlines last year – and some psychiatrists are very worried about the impact it will have on New Mexico teens.
The show, about a teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves audio tapes behind for the people who impacted her life, focuses on revenge in its second season.
Dr. Shawn Sidhu, training director for The University of New Mexico’s child and adolescent psychiatry program, says the new season continues to portray suicide, sexual violence, substance abuse and school violence.
“It suggests that one way to deal with your problems is to take firearms to your school and use violence as a way to solve your problems,” says Sidhu, who points out that the show’s reach is global and its teenage audience fragile.
“The show is very realistic and taps into a lot of areas that are impressionable with teenagers and for children that are already at risk,” Sidhu says.
“Maybe they are suffering from depression, maybe they are suffering from anxiety, maybe there is trouble at home, maybe they are being bullied, maybe they have a difficult life for whatever reason. This show can be like adding gasoline to the fire and maybe what pushes some vulnerable teens over the edge.”
Sidhu wants parents to know that the show’s first season coincided with a 26 percent increase in Google searches – a million more page views than expected – for information on how to commit suicide.
“Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people 10 to 24 years of age,” Sidhu said. “In the past 18 years or so there has been a 30 percent increase in suicide nationally. What we know about New Mexico is 20 percent of high school and 30 percent of middle school kids say they have had suicidal thoughts.”
Of those, Sidhu said 9 percent will actually attempt suicide. That’s why he stresses that parents, teachers and friends must all get involved.
“One thing parents and kids can learn from this show is number one how to communicate better with each other,” he says. “So that’s children reaching out to their parents or others if they need help, but also how to reach out to others.”
If your teenager is struggling Sidhu says, “There is always hope. We should continue to fight –keep fighting because we see kids get better every day.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, thoughts of suicide or violence, please reach out to this resource.