On Monday’s episode of WHYY’s “Radio Times with Marty Moss-Coane,” Guy Diamond, director of Family Intervention Science at Drexel, summed up his feelings about “13 Reasons Why,” the new “binge-worthy” Netflix show that centers on a teenager’s suicide.
“It’s a mixed bag,” the College of Nursing and Health Professions associate professor said. “It has raised conversation in a way that my community prevention efforts often don’t.”
“The more vulnerable kids, the kids who are depressed, at risk, having life struggles, they see a film like this and think, ‘Oh, maybe [with] suicide, I would be remembered and maybe I should use it as a revenge strategy,’” Diamond continued. “There’s definitely — from the professional community — some concerns about this show.”
As an expert in suicidal youth, Diamond joined Moss-Coane to discuss what kind of impact the new, popular show (boasting more than 47 million viewers) might have on young people.
In “13 Reasons Why,” a high school student goes about finding out the story behind his classmate’s decision to kill herself. He achieves this through a series of cassette tapes she left behind detailing her reasoning.
Diamond and others in his field are nervous that the way the show handles the suicide could lead to some viewers becoming inspired by what they see.
“Those more vulnerable kids that we work with all the time [may] see this and feel confirmation,” Diamond said. “They feel like, ‘This is a legitimate solution to the pain I feel.’ And that’s the real disservice of this show.”
A positive Diamond noted was that the show places an emphasis on the effects that bullying can have on young people.
“Kids I know and kids on the internet are talking about this, talking about bully and talking about being nicer to people,” Diamond commented. “[We’re] sort of seeing some awareness about what it means when kids get picked on.”
Netflix recently announced that there would be a second season of the show. Diamond sees opportunities for the streaming service to become a “social activist” and help offset any harm caused by the first season.
“I think there is trauma that never got dealt with,” Diamond said. “I take a therapeutic approach: These traumas need to get on the table. Let’s talk about them and work through them. That could be a pretty exciting thing.”
With many parents concerned about the effect the show might have on their children, Diamond emphasized that the show would likely only be harmful for young people already struggling with trauma and/or depression.
And if a child does tell them they’re having suicidal thoughts, he explained how a parent should handle it.
“In those moments, parents need to take the comment seriously,” Diamond said. “They need to stop what they’re doing: They need to sit down with this child and say, ‘I didn’t know you were feeling this way. Tell me more about this. How can we help you? When did this start?’ Become curious. Become more interested.”
Media interested in talking to Diamond should contact Frank Otto at 215.571.4244 or firstname.lastname@example.org.