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Experts worry, teens have mixed reactions to '13 Reasons Why'

Published: May. 16, 2017 at 11:10 PM EDT|Updated: May. 17, 2017 at 7:52 AM EDT
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WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Students across the country are talking about the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, but one Wilmington teenager says not all those conversations are positive.

In the series, high school student Hannah Baker commits suicide, leaving behind a series of tapes explaining why she did it.

"It's really powerful, but I think it has the wrong message about suicide," said Madilyn Whitman, a Laney High School junior. "I feel like it glorifies it in a way that it shouldn't be. If people are already depressed and sad and thinking about suicide, the show just makes it seem like it's the only answer. It's not."

Whitman said reaction at her school is mixed.

Some students said the show helped them open up, but others said it took their minds to a dark place.

Whitman said many issues addressed in the show, including rape, violence and the moment Hannah kills herself, are very real for her classmates.

"I feel like if you have depression and anxiety and all that, the show just adds on to it and I feel like someone that's battling that should not have to watch Hannah literally killing herself," Whitman said. "I just don't think that's good or healthy. I think that would just be a bad decision on their part to watch that. It would be…it would just be bad."

Some educators and mental health experts agree.

The Wake County Public School System urged parents not to let their children watch the show.

A school district in Colorado briefly pulled the books on which the series is based from student library shelves.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness came out against the show, arguing it doesn't address mental illness at all.

NAMI reported 90 percent of those who have died from suicide have an underlying mental illness.

Whitman said one of her teachers took a different approach when addressing the show.

"She watched the show right when it came out and she actually did an activity in my class called '13 Reasons Why Not,'" Whitman said. "She had us write an event in our life that sucked, and then we wrote someone that helped us thru it and someone that was our reason why not."

NAMI provided the following resources for those struggling with suicide or those who have been affected by it:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 800-273-TALK—provides 24/7 support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources.

The Crisis Text Line — Text "NAMI" to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.

Ok2Talk — This is NAMI's safe community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems. Anyone may share a personal story of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.

Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health — A guide for both parents and young adults to start important conversations about mental health before the college years.

NAMI Ending the Silence — An in-classroom presentation that helps middle and high schoolers understand mental illness. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and their family member tell their stories about mental health challenges.

Say it Out Loud — This toolkit will help adults talk to teens about mental health. The toolkit includes a film, discussion guide, presentation and fact sheets to help start the conversation.

The NAMI HelpLine — 800-950-6264 or info@nami.org can offer you empathy and support and provide you information about resources in your community.

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