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Paramus Psychotherapist: Netflix Series Is Glorifying Teen Suicide

A Paramus psychotherapist is saying a popular Netflix show is raising concerns for families with teens.
A Paramus psychotherapist is saying a popular Netflix show is raising concerns for families with teens. Photo Credit:

PARAMUS, N.J. — A Paramus psychotherapist specializing in adolescents and young adults is warning families of a popular Netflix series that she and other experts say glorifies teen suicide.

"13 Reasons Why" follows a high school student who kills herself, leaving audiotapes for her rapist, bullies and peers she holds responsible.

Psychotherapy Center of New Jersey founder Stephanie Shapiro, LCSW and PhD candidate, says the show could be putting teens at risk.

"The message coming through from the character on the show with suicidal thoughts is that it will all be okay," said Shapiro, who has offices in Ridgewood, Hackensack and Saddle Brook. 

"As if seeking revenge is acceptable.

"We need parents to pay attention to the things these kids are watching," she added. "It's already acted as a trigger for some people and will continue to do so."

Last week, Glen Rock Superintendent Paula Valenti alerted families about the show.

"I think we can agree that this topic is relevant and worth discussing with your child/family," she said, "however... some experts believe the series glorifies teen suicide and it is depicted in a way in which a viewer may feel that suicide is the only way out of a challenging or difficult situation." 

Suicide is most prevalent in teenagers and young adults, and ideations relate to feelings of despair, hopelessness, and seemingly endless internal pain, according to Shapiro.

Teens are especially receptive to what others are doing, and may view the outcome of the show as an acceptable way of handling a difficult situation, she said.

Being a constant source of support is the best way to help someone with suicidal thoughts or ideations, Shapiro said.

"You don't have to be the person to fix the problem, you need to be the person that's accepting, listens and acknowledges," she said. 

"Bring awareness to the finality of the decision. Educate them. Build a connection with people."

When people are feeling depressed, hopeless and isolated, they can see there is someone out there who cares about them, according to Shapiro.

"If you feel it's important for your kids to watch ['13 Reasons Why,'] then you should be there to teach them the message that they should be internalizing," Shapiro said. "Otherwise, it's at their discretion."

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