Local News

Since debut of '13 Reasons Why,' calls into Raleigh's suicide prevention hotline nearly triple

Posted May 1
Updated May 2

— Critics of the new Netflix original series "13 Reasons Why" say it glamorizes suicide. The show is based on a young adult novel, but the series rating is for mature audiences.

Since the show debuted last month, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of calls into a local suicide prevention hotline.

Lauren Foster, who runs the Raleigh-based HopeLine, said that, in recent years, the number of calls had been trending down. This year, it nearly tripled, with 618 calls in March and more than 1,000 in April.

"The information is out there for them to see, so I think a parent could intervene and say, ‘There is a lot of information out there, but there is a lot of bad information out there too,'" Foster said.

Last week, Wake County public schools joined other school systems across the country in recommending that students not watch the Netflix series.

An alert, found on the Wake County Public School System's website, shared more resources and tips for parents, along with information about area middle school and high school suicide prevention program.

"This miniseries attempts to address many topics that can lead to important conversations with students, such as bullying, cyber-bullying, assault, rape and suicide. However, aspects of the miniseries go against the recommendations of mental health professionals and suicide prevention models," wrote Bren Elliott, assistant superintendent for student support services. "We want to bring this to your attention because we have found many of our students have already watched some of the series, have heard about it or are asking questions about it.

"We do not recommend that your student watch the series," Elliott wrote. "However, if your student is going to or already has watched the series, we encourage you to watch it together and discuss your reactions to the issues raised in the series."

"Asking someone is not going to make them consider hurting themselves," Foster said. "I know a lot of people are afraid to ask questions like that, and it's hard, especially if it's your child."

Foster said, as a parent, there are five key questions to ask a child.

  • Are you thinking of hurting or killing yourself?
  • Do you have a plan?
  • Do you have the means?
  • Are you alone?
  • Have you already done something to hurt yourself?

"The more times they say 'yes' or have a specific answer, the more lethal the situation is," she said.

On April 1, the HopeLine updated its system to include a text message line, making it easier to reach out. In March, they received 10 messages. In April, they received 245.

According to the Wake County Sheriff's Office, two people under the age of 18 have attempted suicide this year.

On Monday, Netflix announced that it will include an additional viewer warning card before the first episode, as well as strengthen the messaging and resource language in the existing cards.

5 Comments

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  • Crystal Butler May 2, 9:27 a.m.
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    Also, to the school system, don't you realize that when you reinforce that a teen should NOT do something, that it just makes them want to do it that much more? I think there is a way to bring light to the subject without telling people what they should and shouldn't do.

  • Crystal Butler May 2, 9:23 a.m.
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    Your sarcasm is noted, Jim. This is not a situation in which sarcasm is the response that is warranted. I think that Jerry was maybe hinting at the idea that it is a good thing that people are calling instead of just taking their lives. It means that they are second guessing their initial decision. Parents should definitely watch this show WITH their children. And if children are watching it without parents' knowledge, it just means that parents are failing when it comes to using the parental blocks that are in place just for this type of circumstance.

  • Jim Halbert May 2, 8:05 a.m.
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    What's the problem with increased number of suicide hotline calls? Hmmm, yea, tough one to figure out. They're just calling to chat after all, probably about breakfast cereals.

  • Linda Tally May 2, 2:37 a.m.
    user avatar

    This is a golden - and rare - opportunity for parents and teens, and even pre-teens, to watch and discuss the issues raised by the production. And to gather information about each other as well. Hope a large number of families take advantage of the DVR and conversational exploration.

  • Jerry Selph May 1, 10:20 p.m.
    user avatar

    sooooo if people are calling to address issues they are having after watching it what exactly is the problem at least they are calling to talk rather than killing themselves i didn't hear the suicide rate in NC has tripled???