Incidents involving students at a Chicago Public School cutting themselves and contemplating suicide are tied to a popular Netflix show and website, officials warned Wednesday.
Chicago Public Schools confirmed to NBC 5 it is aware of the Show “13 Reasons Why,” about a teenager who commits suicide, and say principals at CPS schools have healthy conversations about it. But some parents think kids can be influenced by the show.
“Check everything that they’re watching,” says Mark Twain Elementary parent Biribaiana Hernandez. “Because everybody has tablets and phones.”
The show, produced by Selena Gomez, is based on the best-selling novel by Jay Asher.
In a letter to parents at the Garfield Ridge school, the principal explains a number of sixth-grade students have been involved in or aware of “cutting activities” both inside of school and out.
The school says the students and their parents have been spoken to and disciplinary actions have been taken where appropriate.
“Sequences of terrible things happen to Hannah, and we don’t get a feel for her internalization until she kills herself,” Dr. Victor Schwartz, medical director of the JED Foundation, told NBC News in April. “None of that stuff is made clear because it’s focused on the horrible things people have done to her. The whole thing is an extended revenge fantasy.”
In a statement to BuzzFeed, Netflix says it will put an additional viewer warning before the first episode of the show and will also increase “the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter.”
Students told NBC 5 an online game called “The Blue Whale Challenge” tries to convince young people to kill themselves through social media—adding another worrisome facet to the complicated intersection of young people and technology.
School counselors have spoken with all of the sixth-grade classes at the school, CPS says.
The National Suicide Prevention hotline can be reached 24 hours a day at 1-800-273-8255.