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European Association for Counselling

13 Reasons Why prompts concern about child suicide

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why prompts rise in charity counselling for children

NSPCC says some children who have received Childline counselling said series triggered memories of suicidal thoughts.

The Guardian Newspaper raises the concerns of parents and child counselling bodies across the USA and Europe about the way child suicide is depicted in the series shown on Netflix.

Global suicide rates among adolescents in the 15-19 age group, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) Mortality Database, were examined. Data for this age group were available from 90 countries (in some cases areas) out of the 130 WHO member states. The mean suicide rate for this age group, based on data available for the latest year, was 7.4/100,000. Suicide rates were higher in males (10.5) than in females (4.1). This applies in almost all countries. The exceptions are China, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador and Sri Lanka, where the female suicide rate was higher than the male. In the 90 countries (areas) studied, suicide was the fourth leading cause of death among young males and the third for young females. Of the 132,423 deaths of young people in the 90 countries, suicide accounted for 9.1%. The trend of suicide rates from 26 countries (areas) with data available during the period 1965-1999 was also studied. A rising trend of suicide in young males was observed. This was particularly marked in the years before 1980 and in countries outside Europe. The WHO database is the largest of its kind and, indeed, the only information source that can currently be used for analysis of global mortality due to suicide. Methodological limitations are discussed.

Are we guilty of exposing young minds to what some view as an easy escape from the pressures of this world?

We cannot monitor every avenue that attacks the minds of the young but we must ensure that there are enough professionally trained counsellors available so they can turn to someone outside their peer group before it si too late. Counselling is a proven methodology that can provide a safe and confidential environment for children and young people to express the pressures they face.

 These extracts from The Guardian Newspaper and the World Psychiatry paper are sources for discussion and we are grateful to them for the extracts in the article.

suicide -Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in a scene from the series 13 Reasons Why on Netflix.
Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker in a scene from the series 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. Photograph: Beth Dubber/AP

A children’s charity is providing a growing number of counselling sessions for young people concerned about the content of the Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why.

The NSPCC said some children who had received counselling via its Childline service said the series had triggered memories of suicidal thoughts. Others were worried that the programme did not offer advice on how to help someone who was feeling suicidal.

The drama has been criticised by mental health groups for its portrayal of a 17-year-old’s suicide, which they say could encourage young people to take their own lives.

A number of schools have sent letters to parents alerting them to the series, among them St Catherine’s independent girls’ school near Guildford in Surrey. The letter says the series has an 18 rating but that younger girls have watched it and may be encouraging others to do so.

“We don’t want to scaremonger but we do want to flag up what’s out there,” a spokeswoman for the school said. “It was a step we took along with other schools we work with to alert parents to the risks. We’ve had a very positive response from parents.”

Netflix has added an additional warning at the start of the series – on top of warnings already in place for specific episodes – in response to concerns from mental health campaigners.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “No child should ever feel so helpless that they find themselves at such a crisis point, and we want young people to know they can talk to Childline about anything, anytime on 0800 1111 or”

The US-set series is based on a novel of the same name by Jay Asher and is made up of 13 episodes featuring 13 friends of the central character, Hannah Baker, listening to a tape she made for each of them, explaining the difficulties she faced that prompted her to kill herself.

The NSPCC spokesperson said: “Schools must be alive to issues that are affecting their children, and we welcome open communication between teachers and parents.

“Raising concerns, sharing information, and flagging worries can all help adults care for young people and stay abreast of the issues that young people face online. If any adult has a concern about a child they can always call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.”

Read more comment from The Guardian here 13 Reasons Why

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