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.

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.

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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  1. I am a parent, and I do not understand why everyone is saying the series glamorizes suicide. It does not. I watched it. Sure there were graphic scenes, but they were relatively “tastefully” done. The things that happen to the girl in the story are a perfect storm. These are things that can happen to any teen. It illustrates who the bullies are, but we can see what she didn’t. We can see their insecurities and their being bullied. There is a scene where you see, what might have been, if she had not felt so hopeless or helpless. Everyone fails, in this series, just like they do in real life. My kids were bullied in school, and the response from the school was often, “Just let it blow over”, meanwhile the child’s grades suffer while they are trying to “deal with it”. I almost lost my daughter, when I was unaware that she had birth control pills. I knew she was moody, but she was in the 1-2% that can get depressed on the pills and it was severe. Luckily, she figured out the pills were causing the problem. There is an episode about how the scenes were done the way they were. At the end of the series, you can also see what is happening with the other kids. One talks to her father, possibly saving her. One attempts suicide, his fate is unknown. One renews a friendship with a classmate who is marginalized. And the one that really scared me was the one who would probably end up shooting up the school. I think it is definitely something the parents should watch with their kids and discuss it.