13 Reasons Why

April 22, 2017

Dear families, staff and students,

In recent days I have heard a lot of discussion among students, staff and across the nation regarding the new Netflix series called "13 Reasons Why," based on a fictional novel by Jay Asher. The series is rated TV-MA (for a mature audience). It depicts a journey of a high school student who dies by suicide, leaving behind tapes in which she tells her story and the events that led up to her death. I would describe the series as graphic and real.  

The creators have promoted the series as being one that would help students understand the impact of bullying, social media, harassment, assault and suicide. The mature nature of the series, the graphic content and some of the misconceptions have given educators and mental health professional some increasing concern around the series.   While the series is compelling and dramatic, the concerns of many educators is that it does not accurately model what we would want or hope for students that are struggling or in crisis.

My intent in sending this letter is to make families and staff aware of the series and also to provide some resources and talking points about the series. We definitely encourage you to talk with your child about this series, especially if they have already watched it.

https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-why-talking-points/

Get Help Now

  • Text "START" to 741-741
  • or call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Ramsey Middle School is committed to support the social and emotional needs of our students. This is just as important to our staff as the academic needs. If you have individual concerns related to the mental health of your student or you need additional resources, please contact the school's deans, counselor, social workers and administrators for support.

Sincerely,

Erin Rathke
Principal, Ramsey Middle School

Jed Foundations Talking points:

  • 13 Reasons Why is a fictional story based on a widely known novel and is meant to be a cautionary tale.
  • You may have similar experiences and thoughts as some of the characters in 13RW. People often identify with characters they see on TV or in movies. However, it is important to remember that there are healthy ways to cope with the topics covered in 13RW and acting on suicidal thoughts is not one of them.
  • If you have watched the show and feel like you need support or someone to talk to reach out. Talk with a friend, family member, a counselor, or therapist. There is always someone who will listen.
  • Suicide is not a common response to life’s challenges or adversity. The vast majority of people who experience bullying, the death of a friend, or any other adversity described in 13RW do not die by suicide. In fact, most reach out, talk to others and seek help or find other productive ways of coping. They go on to lead healthy, normal lives.
  • Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act. Hannah's suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic and should be viewed as a tragedy. It is important to know that, in spite of the portrayal of a serious treatment failure in 13RW, there are many treatment options for life challenges, distress and mental illness. Treatment works.
  • Suicide affects everyone and everyone can do something to help if they see or hear warning signs that someone is at risk of suicide.
  • Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is ok. It will not make someone more suicidal or put the idea of suicide in their mind. If you are concerned about someone, ask them about it.
  • Knowing how to acknowledge and respond to someone who shares their thoughts of emotional distress or suicide with you is important. Don’t judge them or their thoughts. Listen. Be caring and kind. Offer to stay with them. Offer to go with them to get help or to contact a crisis line.
  • How the guidance counselor in 13RW responds to Hannah's thoughts of suicide is not appropriate and not typical of most counselors. School counselors are professionals and a trustworthy source for help. If your experience with a school counselor is unhelpful, seek other sources of support such as a crisis line.
  • While not everyone will know what to say or have a helpful reaction, there are people who do, so keep trying to find someone who will help you. If someone tells you they are suicidal, take them seriously and get help.
  • When you die you do not get to make a movie or talk to people any more. Leaving messages from beyond the grave is a dramatization produced in Hollywood and is not possible in real life.
  • Memorializing someone who died by suicide is not a recommended practice. Decorating someone’s locker who died by suicide and/or taking selfies in front of such a memorial is not appropriate and does not honor the life of the person who died by suicide.
  • Hannah's tapes blame others for her suicide. Suicide is never the fault of survivors of suicide loss. There are resources and support groups for suicide loss survivors.  

13 Reasons Why Ramsey Response

The staff at Ramsey cares about every students' mental health and wellbeing. The student support team has seen a spike recently in students' interest in and struggle with mental health issues.

Remember that Ms. Cottingham, Ms. Cassie, and Ms. Annie are available to help. If you or a friend are having thoughts about hurting yourself, feeling depressed or thinking about suicide, please seek us out. We WANT to hear from you and we are here to help!

If you see bullying or are being bullied, please tell a Dean immediately. Do not sit back and let students be mean to others.

Remember that 90% of people who commit suicide suffer from a serious mental illness, and are not reacting to life events or bullying.

Remember to never promise to keep a secret when a friend shares that they are hurting themselves or thinking about suicide. Tell a trusted adult.

Remember that suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice and it is preventable. Things DO get better. There is hope and there is help. Treatment does work.

While bullying often does not cause suicide, bullying hurts everyone. If you see bullying on-line, report it. If you hear it at school, report it. If you are being bullied yourself, seek support from a trusted adult.