In response to concerns raised by the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’, the Education Service Center Region 12 is hosting a session for counselors, teachers and administrators of local schools on May 23.
The series revolves around a 17-year-old who committed suicide and left tapes where she talks about people who were part of why she killed herself.
Region 12's Regional Counselor Specialist Jeni Janek said their main concern right now is for someone considering suicide having the help they need.
"That they know they can reach out for that help, that suicide is not the answer. That the glamorization that may be taken from some of the scenes is not always the reality," Janek said.
She said she couldn't advise parents whether they should allow their children to watch it, but she knows this is a conversation that is taking place in schools.
"Making sure that we are engaging kids. That we are not just passively hearing it and not thinking it could have an impact," Janek said. "Talk to your kids, definitely talk about it and make sure you give the feedback that you need to engage them."
La Vega ISD posted a parent alert on Facebook saying the district doesn’t recommend students to view the series, but the district knows some students may do so. The district advises parents to tell them to discuss their thoughts on the series.
Midway ISD plans to send information to parents through a newsletter later this week offering resources and helpful information for parents to familiarize themselves with the series and to read different perspectives on the series.
Sharon Blanchard, a Licensed Professional Counselor at Midway ISD said the district wanted to partner with their parents for them to fully informed in order to make a decision on whether their children should watch the series.
"Many students have already watched it and I think have watched without their parents even knowing. It is very graphic, very hard to watch and not appropriate for all people, I don't think from a professional opinion," Blanchard said.
Mary Severns whose son is an eighth grader at Live Oak Classical School, said she discussed the subject with her son.
"This is an intense topic to talk about suicide and it's something that it can take place and that we should talk about it as a family and if we do watch the show we should do it together," Severns.
Severns who is also a blogger for the Waco Moms Blog, said her child mentioned his classmates were interested about the subject.
"The show is obviously tackling some important issues what teens face like self-esteem and bullying. I wouldn't want him to take that as a source of truth," Severns said.
Parent Jenniffer Kampermann said her 13-year-old daughter watched the show and benefited from it. The Midway ISD student told her mother the series made her want to be nicer to people.
Severns in the other hand said she could not answer whether there are any benefits from watching the show because she has not watched it yet. However, she did say she thought it is important that is starting a conversation.
"I do think that is always beneficial to open up dialogue with teenagers to find out what's going on that they are not talking about," Severns said.
Several mental health experts did tell News Channel 25, the series has started a dialogue between parents and teens about tough subjects, such as suicide and bullying. In addition, it has allowed to highlight the resources available for those struggling with mental health.
Heart of Texas Region MHMH Klaras Center for Families Counselor Adreanne Dugger said suicide warning signs include, increased depression, moodiness, changes in appetite or not being interested in activities they usually enjoy.
If you do see signs, Dugger recommends you to have the tough conversation with your child and ask if something is wrong.
“You can ask them point blank. The most important thing is to not be afraid to ask them. Are you thinking about killing yourself? Have you had thoughts of hurting yourself? Yes, it possible that a teen might lie to you about that. If you think something is really off you should go ahead and take them to the emergency room or dial 911,” Dugger said.
If you think your child is having suicidal thoughts, you can call 1-800-273-8255 or text START to 741-741
Counselors, teachers and administrators who want to register for this session, click here.
Parents can find suggest talking points about ‘13 Reasons Why’ here.
ESC Region 12 will also host its annual Teen Suicide Prevention Symposium that is open to the public on June. 28.
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