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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Thirteen Reasons Why (or Why Not)

You are important!  Stay Strong!  (written)
Flickr Creative Commons, Eli Christman


I live in a bit of a popular culture bubble, and I'm often late to the game of hearing about what is hot.  Last week, one month after the Netflix series based on the teen book by Jay Asher Thirteen Reasons Why was released, I heard about the series three times in as many days.

Just in case any of you aren't aware, I thought I would share some resources and information.  Thirteen Reasons Why is about a teen who completes suicide, first creating cassette tapes to leave with thirteen people who she holds responsible for her desperate solution.  In the Netflix series, each episode covers a tape.

There are conflicting opinions about whether this series is problematic in its depiction of suicide and suicidal thoughts.  Some experts believe that it is getting people to talk about this crucial topic, and asking people to think about the way their interactions with each other might have a lasting and harmful affect.  Others bring up several problems--suggesting that it presents suicide as a means to revenge, possible glorification of suicide, promoting the idea that "if someone is going to kill themselves, nothing one of us could say would change their minds," (as one counselor tells a survivor), and possible triggers with graphic violent depictions of sexual assault and suicide.

Some schools are sending letters to parents, alerting them to the series and urging parents to watch it with their teens and open a dialogue, and recommending that students who are vulnerable to suicidal ideation not watch the series at all.  The JED Foundation has put together a guide about the show, as well as a set of 13 Talking Points about the series, pointing out some important issues in the series.

I'm pointing all of this out because I think we should know about it.  It would be interesting to work with the school to provide a forum for families to talk about these issues when they are at the top of everyone's mind.  Prevent Suicide Wisconsin has a list of QPR Trainers in the state.  Question, Persuade, Refer is like CPR for people you think may be having a mental health crisis--the main take-away is not to ignore it if you are worried someone may be considering suicide.  Ask them about it, persuade them not to do it right now, and help them find help.  I am guessing librarians are in the position to deal with this now and then, and I highly recommend getting yourselves some resources and tools so you don't feel quite so freaked out and ill-prepared when it happens.

Let us know if you are planning to do anything related to this!  We'd love to learn from your experience!

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