13 Reasons Why: What Parents Should Know and How to Talk About It


Meredith Tumilty, Psy.D., Child & Family Psychological Services

Clay, A Character from 13 Reasons Why

In May, the second season of the controversial show “13 Reasons Why” was released. The Netflix series follows a fictional group of high school students following the death by suicide of a classmate who leaves behind tapes outlining 13 reasons she decided to end her life. The series is controversial, as it includes graphic depictions of suicide, substance use, gun violence, and physical and sexual assault.

Things to know before tuning in:

  • This show is VERY graphic and is inappropriate for children, and teens should watch and/or discuss with an adult.
  • This show can be triggering for many individuals who may have similar experiences. If this describes you, you may wish to consider whether this risk is something you are prepared to manage, and what you would do if you find yourself becoming upset by the show.
  • There are discussion guides and general resources for viewers announced at the end of each episode.


How to talk to your teen:

  • See if your teen is watching the show. If they want to watch, you should pre-screen the show and/or watch the show with them.
  • Ask your teen if they have experienced anything depicted in the show. Asking about suicide and self-harm will not give your teen ideas. It can open an important conversation about safety and getting appropriate help.
  • Many mental health professionals have noted that the show romanticizes and dramatizes the idea that dying is a way to influence those still alive, rather than educating people about the tragic realities and risks of suicide. Reinforce that there are ALWAYS ways to get help when needed, and emphasize that suicide is permanent and not solution.
  • Remind teens that if they are concerned about a classmate or friend, do not stay quiet. They should inform an adult, whether it is a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, or parent. Keeping a secret about his or her safety does not help a friend.
  • If you are concerned about your teen, consider speaking with your primary care physician who can refer you to our behavioral health team at South Shore Medical Center.
    • Signs of trouble to look for:
      • Statements, letters, or postings about suicide or dying
      • Sudden or dramatic changes in behavior, appearance, school- or social-engagement
      • Giving away personal possessions

Speaking openly and supportively with your teen about what is happening in his or her life may be difficult, but it is important. Let your teen know that it is okay to talk about anything with you, or if they are uncomfortable, that you can set up an appointment for them to speak with a professional.

For more information or crisis resources, please visit:

Plymouth County Suicide Prevention Coalition

The Nan Project

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Massachusetts

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Youth Health Connection


Dr. Tumilty practices at Child & Family Psychological Services, Inc. / Integrated Behavioral Associates (CFPS/IBA), South Shore Medical Center’s partner in offering diagnostic and psychotherapeutic Behavioral Health services to children, adolescents and adults. For information about scheduling an appointment, please call 781-878-5200.

Photo via Netflix.


Meredith Tumilty, Psy.D., Child & Family Psychological Services