Schools advised about dealing with students and 13 Reasons Why

Vaimoana Tapaleao, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thursday, 19 September 2019, 3:06PM
The show became controversial for showing the suicide of Hannah. (Photo / Netflix)
The show became controversial for showing the suicide of Hannah. (Photo / Netflix)

Schools have been advised about how best to deal with students watching the latest season of a controversial Netflix series dealing with issues including suicide, bullying and rape.

Open discussions about such issues raised in 13 Reasons Why is one recommendation given to teachers by the Ministry of Education.

The advice has recently been put up on the ministry's official website as the hugely controversial but popular series continues.

The series is based on the life - and death - of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who leaves behind cassette tapes explaining why she took her own life.

Season 3 started showing in New Zealand late last month. It now has a RP18 rating - meaning anyone under 18 years old must watch it with the supervision of a parent or guardian.

Ministry officials have prepared a specific document dubbed "13 Reasons Why Season 3'' under its resources to help schools prepare for traumatic incidents.

"Many young people in New Zealand may access and watch 13 Reasons Why season three and some may also access previous versions covering issues such as rape, drug use, bullying and depression.

"When students access sensitive issues on media, they may also know someone who is facing a difficult or sensitive issue or be supporting a friend who is feeling distressed.''

Teachers are told how best to discuss and support students when they may have watched disturbing content.

A graphic scene showing Hannah's suicide was later edited out of Season 1 - but not before millions of people around the world had seen it.

Kiwi teachers are warned about students feeling self-conscious about watching specific content on the programme and possible scenes that may trigger negative thoughts.

"They may be experiencing guilt or shame and be concealing their actions about viewing the material - and may worry about the consequences of what they viewed for themselves and others.

"This distress may contribute to thoughts of suicide or they may know someone who has died by suicide.''

The document tells teachers to take the opportunity to engage with students when they raise serious issues and build understanding and resilience.

Teachers should also let students know if they find talking about those issues difficult for them, the document says.

"The important thing is that you are open to having a conversation about the topic ... or you can support access to someone who can have such conversations.''

Education officials are not the only group or authority to release advice or warning after the release of the latest instalment of 13 Reasons Why.

The Mental Health Foundation has a dedicated resource and "good reads'' page on its website advising parents, in particular, about how to deal with their children and the issues raised in the series.

Other recommendations given by the ministry include finding out more about what exactly it was that the student watched or saw online that they found difficult to handle.

"Let them know who they can talk to about things when they need more information.

"Encourage young people to seek help from someone they truck and who won't judge them - this could be a teacher, counsellor, parent, friend or helpline.''

The advice also encourages teachers and schools to remind young people that when they are watching anything that might "scary or offensive'' to keep in mind who they are watching it with - such as younger siblings.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.



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