MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A popular new series on Netflix has captured the attention of teenagers — and mental health experts.

“13 Reasons Why” is about a 17-year-old girl who takes her own life. But before she does, she leaves recordings for the people she identifies as the reasons she killed herself.

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School districts across Minnesota sent letters and emails to parents this week, warning them about the mature content of the series.

The dialogue is chilling. The storyline is disturbing and dark. Some of the scenes are graphic.

And across the country, students in middle school and high school can’t stop watching and talking about it.

“13 Reasons Why” (credit: Netflix)

“Because teenagers know about this and are watching doesn’t necessarily mean that a parent knows they’re watching it,” said Stephanie Ochocki, who oversees the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s counselors and social workers. “I think the concern is, you know, glamorization of suicide. Giving a story that’s incomplete to children who really don’t understand long-term cause and effect.”

She says it’s up to parents to decide whether the show is appropriate for their kids.

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Mental health groups, like the Bloomington-based SAVE, have created talking points for parents to help them discuss the show’s suicide theme.

“Research also shows, you know, that information about suicide is typically something that kids have access to at ages that are much younger than people would expect, and that’s because they have it from the media, from peer-to-peer conversation or from personal experience,” Ochocki said.

She says Minnesota schools lead the nation in being proactive in training staff to identify and address the mental health needs of students.

“We were the first state to have early warning signs of mental illness training for teachers, and the legislature just advanced suicide prevention training as well for teachers,” Ochocki said.

And now is a good time for parents to join the conversation.

Other school districts that contacted parents about the series include Lakeville, Minnetonka, Wayzata, Eden Prairie and Edina.

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