Central Alberta school district sends 13 Reasons Why letter to parents

Board to host parent meeting on Wednesday in Red Deer

School officials will host a parent information session to discuss concerns over a popular Netflix show that deals with bullying, suicide, drugs and sexual behaviour next week.

Last week the Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools sent home a letter to parents about the popular Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. The series’ content is causing concern among mental health authorities and school officials.

The district will host a meeting on May 10 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at St. Thomas Aquinas Middle School.

In the letter, the district cautions that the graphic themes may be trigger for some viewers. The district has had no incidents related series but that they wanted to provide parents with some information.

Dawne Adkins, Education co-ordinator with Suicide Information and Education Services of Red Deer and Central Alberta says the series is raising discussion but she isn’t sure if it’s in a good way.

“We have to be mindful of what we put into our bodies,” she said in the letter. “That’s not just food. That is what we see and hear. We need to be very mindful of what emotions can be prompted when viewing such material, whether that’s because it has been experienced by people, or second-hand or through conversations or other experiences.”

Also last week an Edmonton school banned the talk of the series in its school too this week. Other districts across the country are concerned about the impacts of the show.

Suicide is never a solution. It is an irreversible choice regarding a temporary problem. There is help. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or know someone who is, talk to a trusted adult, call Suicide Information and Education Services in Red Deer at 403-342-4966. Kid’s Help Phone is a 24-hour, seven days a week 1-800-668-6868 website offering crisis counselling.

Guidance for families:

1. Ask your child if they have heard or seen the series 13 Reasons Why. While we don’t recommend that they be encouraged to view the series, do tell them you want to watch it, with them or to catch up, and discuss their thoughts.

2. If they exhibit any of the warning signs below, don’t be afraid to ask if they have thought about suicide or if someone is hurting them. Raising the issue of suicide does not increase the risk or plant the idea. On the contrary, it creates the opportunity to offer help.

3. Ask your child if they think any of their friends or classmates exhibit warning signs. Talk with them about how to seek help for their friend or classmate. Guide them on how to respond when they see or hear any of the warning signs.

4. Listen to your children’s comments without judgment. Doing so requires that you fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. Put your own agenda aside.

5. Get help from a school-employed or community-based mental health professional if you are concerned for your child’s safety or the safety of one of their peers.

Always take suicide risk warning signs seriously, and never promise to keep them secret. Establish a confidential reporting mechanism for students.

Common signs include:

• Suicide threats, both direct (“I am going to kill myself.” “I need life to stop.”) and indirect (“I need it to stop.” “I wish I could fall asleep and never wake up.”). Threats can be verbal or written, and they are often found in online postings.

• Giving away prized possessions.

• Preoccupation with death in conversation, writing, drawing, and social media.

• Changes in behavior, appearance/hygiene, thoughts, and/or feelings. This can include someone who is typically sad who suddenly becomes extremely happy.

• Emotional distress.


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