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13 reasons Why: reasons to check in on our kids

Le Va, a Pacific not-for-profit organisation whose work spans mental health, suicide prevention, addictions, violence prevention and cultural competency, is urging caregivers to check in on their young people and to equip themselves with the skills to spot warning signs of mental distress.

Today Netflix will release 13 Reasons Why – a controversial series that can be triggering for our most vulnerable. The first two seasons were widely watched by teenagers, which included themes of suicide, sexual assault, bullying and other issues that led to many viewers feeling distressed and in need of support.

“There’s clear evidence now that unsafe messaging in movies, media, social media and online can be triggering, especially for our most vulnerable, or if we are simply having a vulnerable day. This can contribute to psychological distress,” Le Va chief executive Dr Monique Faleafa says.

“In the lead-up to the release, some young people may re-watch the first two seasons, or watch it for the first time. Feedback from young people is that it accurately represented the issues they face in their lives. Banning or recommending a ban on viewing it can be more harmful, as young people will still watch it but feel they have to hide that from adults.”

In an advisory blog, Dr Faleafa cautions that “the issues raised in the series are significant, and the series offers a good opportunity to our young people to talk about these difficult life events, but it is important that those conversations are safe ones”.

Le Va recently launched their Mental Wealth Project, a mental health literacy solution for young people and their families to increase social inclusion, decrease stigma and enhance help-seeking behaviour. The website has tools and knowledge banks to recognise warning signs and strategies for modelling positive behaviour and outcomes.

The Mental Health Foundation has also released new resources for adults to start a kōrero/conversation with young people about suicide.

“We must all be committed to working together to build up our young people, so that they have a sense of belonging, purpose and hope,” says Dr Faleafa.

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