School districts issue warnings about '13 Reasons Why' Netflix series
The Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" is not on any D.C.-area high school curriculum.
But administrators from several public school districts are issuing urgent warnings about the show, which tells the story of a teenage girl who commits suicide.
"I would warn him beforehand," say Reema Chawla, whose 11-year-old son attends Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Arlington, Virginia.
"I would not like you to watch it," she adds. "But if you however, choose to watch it, there are other repercussions that you might feel, so it's better to be careful. "
The series centers around a student named Hannah Baker, who takes her own life after leaving audio recordings for the 13 people she says contributed to her death.
"Why didn't you say this to me when I was alive?" she says in one episode.
Authorities are concerned that emotionally-disturbed young people are binge-watching the show, with no feedback or perspective from adults.
"My fear about this show is they're going to watch this, and they're not going to reach for help," says mental health expert Dave Reisenberg. "They're going to feel as though there's no reason to."
Several school districts have taken action.
The Arlington School District sent home a letter to parents, which said in part:
"...While the story touches on important topics, the content is very graphic in nature. Although we do not encourage viewing, we believe it is critical for our children and youth to process this information with a trusted adult if they have watched this series..."
The letter also noted some critics' concerns that the series 'romanticizes or glamorizes suicide but gives no healthy alternative to kids struggling with emotional problems.'
"It's really important for people to know that about 90 percent of the people that die by suicide have a mental health issue at the time of their death," Reisenberg says. "They miss the mental health aspects when it comes to suicide that are well known and well documented world-wide."
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among people aged 13 to 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Students like Chawla's son Kanha, a 6th grader at Jefferson Middle School, is concerned about the impact of she series on youngsters.
"They might have suicidal thoughts, so maybe when they're older they should watch it," he says.
Fairfax and Montgomery County Schools are also urging parents to stay involved.
"As always is the case, we encourage you to talk with your children about what they are watching both at home and in the company of friends," a Fairfax County release says.
Students' counselors are available if there are additional questions or concerns, the letter states.
"It's important to make aware, or have an awareness that certain things are not good for the children," Chawla says. "So it's better if parents are agile or alert and just tell their kids what to expect."
Netflix issued a statement to ABC News, saying "We support the unflinching vision of the show's creators, who engaged the careful advice of medical professionals in the script-writing process."
The company says it's also providing prevention resources and information on crisis hotlines in more than 35 countries, on a sister website.
Right now, Jefferson Middle School parent Omar Salazar says he's thankful for the heads-up from district administrators.
"Yes, suicide, that situation, that's kind of serious," he says. "Some kids, they just afraid to say something. If they see it on the TV, they might think it's okay to actually talk about it."