13 Reasons Why: Considerations for Catholic Parents

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photo credit: litlnemo Our TV, 1969 via photopin (license)

If you haven’t heard of 13 Reasons Why, it’s likely that you either don’t live in or around teens or that you’ve been “screen free” since the Netflix original series launched in late March. For the unacquainted, I’ll provide the IMDB synopsis here:

13 Reasons Why, based on the best-selling books by Jay Asher, follows teenager Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he returns home from school to find a mysterious box with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers a group of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford)-his classmate and crush-who tragically committed suicide two weeks earlier. On tape, Hannah unfolds an emotional audio diary, detailing the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Through Hannah and Clay’s dual narratives, 13 Reasons Why weaves an intricate and heartrending story of confusion and desperation that will deeply affect viewers.

As a service to our readers, I wanted to pull together a variety of resources for you to enable you to decide about the show for yourself. I hope that these will also be very helpful to those of you with kids who have already seen the show.

I’m not here to pass judgment on your parenting choices. I trust that you’ll decide what’s best for you and your children in your home. I simply want to provide some of the helpful resources that have come my way via a Facebook conversation I opened a few days ago. Feel free to add your comments and questions on that post or here in our combox, which will stay open as long as the dialogue stays productive and respectful. I’ll also look to add any resources I discover that may serve helpful, so please include links in the combox here if you’ve found them helpful.

The following links are provided in no particular order. They have been prescreened as of this writing, but they are links to external sites so we cannot vouch for the content on linked sites:

The following are reader recommended resources which provide additional information but are not explicitly Catholic in perspective:

In many arenas, there are a consistent set of recommendations being offered to parents. While spurred by the series’ popularity, they are nonetheless great recommendations for any parent regardless of whether or not you will watch the show:

  • Do take this as an opportunity to have an open, age appropriate conversation with your child
  • Make sure your child knows the steps to take to find trusted help from an adult
  • Know the signs of depression or possible suicide and always take warning signs seriously. Signs include:
    • Talking about wanting to die
    • Looking for a way to kill oneself
    • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
    • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
    • Talking about being a burden to others
    • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
    • Acting anxious, agitated, or recklessly
    • Sleeping too little or too much
    • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
    • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
    • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • Know what to do and discuss an action plan with your child, when there is a risk of suicide including:
    • Do not leave the person alone
    • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs, or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
    • Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
    • Take the person to an emergency room, or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

I will be discussing this topic tomorrow morning on the Son Rise Morning Show with host Anna Mitchell. One resource I will specifically be sharing with listeners is the beautiful book Angelhood by Catholic author A.J. (Amy) Cattapan. Amy shared on my Facebook page the following, which has stayed with me over the last few days:

“I’m grateful to Jay Asher for writing a book that brings up important topics, but as Christian authors we need to do more than just bring up important topics. We must depict them in light of what we know to be true as Christians; namely, that we have a God who loves us and who will never leave us! Lisa Hendey, when you are on the radio, please stress with the listeners that there are Catholic authors writing about these tough topics who are presenting them in ways that parents can feel comfortable sharing with their teens! We can talk about teen suicide in a way that offers Christian hope!”

Let’s reach out together to families who have been impacted in any way by mental health crises and suicide. Let’s not fear as parents taking on the tough topics our kids need to discuss with us. And finally let’s pray for all of those who struggle in any way with suicide or suicidal ideation, or the devastating loss of a loved one.

Reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline any time: 1-800-273-8255

St. Dymphna, St. Rapael, St. Michael and Mary our Mother, pray for us!

Copyright 2017 Lisa M. Hendey
photo credit: litlnemo Our TV, 1969 via photopin (license)

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About Author

Lisa M. Hendey is the founder and editor of CatholicMom.com and the bestselling author of the Chime Travelers children's fiction series, The Grace of Yes, The Handbook for Catholic Moms and A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms. As a board member and frequent host on KNXT Catholic Television, Lisa has produced and hosted multiple programs and has appeared on EWTN and CatholicTV. Hendey hosted “Catholic Moments” on Radio Maria and is the technology contributor for EWTN’s SonRise Morning Show. Lisa's articles have appeared in Catholic Digest, National Catholic Register, and Our Sunday Visitor. Hendey travels internationally giving workshops on faith, family, and Catholic technology and communications topics. She was selected as an Elizabeth Egan Journalism Fellow, attended the Vatican Bloggers Meeting, the “Bishops and Bloggers” meeting and has written internationally on the work of Catholic Relief Services and Unbound. Hendey lives with her family in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Visit Lisa at www.LisaHendey.com for information on her speaking schedule or to invite her to visit your group, parish or organization.

3 Comments

  1. As one who works in a Catholic High School, I’ve seen what buzz this has made. We’ve received many of the articles you’ve listed above in our emails from administration and other teachers. Thank you, Lisa, for putting this all together. My husband and I are half way through the series–it’s too depressing to binge watch–and we both have enough emotional drama in our days that it’s even been hard just to watch half of the series. As far as showing our own children, it’s definitely not for young teens. And I’d suggest older teens only if you are going to watch it with them and converse about it. We’ve had some of these conversations with our 16 year old–what the story gets right, what it gets wrong–and he hasn’t even seen it. He is gathering his opinions from what he’s heard us and other kids say. I’m not sure if he should even watch it. (And maybe the episodes later on will confirm this decision. . .) So it has been a great conversation that we’ve been having without any of the perhaps harmful effects of watching it. My twenty year old media-savvy son called it an “edgy Netflix ABC Afterschool special” I guess he thought it cliche and preachy. My recommendation is if you are unsure–watch it first. And don’t be afraid to ask your teen if he’s heard about the show and what his thoughts are. This could produce some great conversations about important matters.

  2. Thank you for this resource Lisa. (By the way, I have enjoyed watching you on Women of Grace this week!)

  3. Mary Lou Rosien on

    As the sister of a brother who committed suicide and someone involved in Youth Ministry, I’m very grateful for this comprehensive information on this popular series. Thank you so much!

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