Long Island parents, students and school administrators are gearing up for the second season of the controversial young-adult Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," which launches all its episodes Friday.
The first season told the story of fictional high school student Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after being raped and bullied by classmates. She left behind audiocassette tapes explaining 13 reasons why she killed herself. The graphic nature of the rape and suicide scenes alarmed psychologists, who worried children already emotionally vulnerable might be adversely affected.
This season, a video will play before the episodes starring the series' actors urging kids who need help to reach out for it. Netflix is updating its downloadable discussion guide and resources for parents at 13reasonswhy.info and will also include videos by cast members out of character addressing topics such as spotting signs of depression. It is also planning a "Beyond the Reasons" aftershow to conclude the second season. While the first season was based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, the second is original material, and the action-packed trailer for season 2 hints of violent fistfights and death threats, a possible shooting and a trial.
Here's what some Long Islanders have to say about the new season:
Conversation is positive
Michael Anastasio, 50, a self-employed trader from Massapequa, and daughter Carla, 16
Anastasio has three daughters, 17, 16 and 12, and watched the show with them last spring. He says he thinks it's beneficial for kids to be aware of certain struggles. He made sure his girls knew they can talk to him about anything, and that problems that seem too big to handle as a teenager aren’t as enormous as they might seem. “I know there was a lot of blowback, that people said it glorified suicide,” Anastasio says. “I’ve been affected by suicide in my life, and anything that brings awareness to it and speaking about it is a positive thing.”
Carla, a sophomore at Massapequa High School, says she is curious to see what happens next. “The last season left off on a cliffhanger,” she says. One student had a gunshot wound and appeared to be in an ambulance racing to the emergency room, another was seen closing a trunk of guns in his bedroom, and Hannah’s mother was relentlessly looking for answers and blame to understand why her daughter took her own life.
Not planning to watch
Sara Campbell, 17, a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, West Hempstead
Campbell chose not to watch season 1, and she's not planning to tune in to season 2 either. "I knew a lot of my friends were watching it, but from the things I'd seen about the show, I really objected to the premise of it," Campbell says."Personally, it wasn't something I thought would be entertaining for me." While she says she does think educating people about suicide is important, she doesn't like that the main character seems to be getting revenge post-mortem. "I thought the whole narrative of 'people only cared about my life after I killed myself' was setting a dangerous precedent," she says.
Not appropriate for tweens and younger teens
Grace Bianco, 19, Centerport, just finished freshman year at Fairfield University
"I'm probably going to binge watch it the whole weekend," says Bianco, who watched season 1 last year as a senior in high school. While she's intrigued by the show's back story, she is also disturbed that kids as young as middle school may watch, even though the series is rated for mature audiences. "I don't think it's appropriate for kids under 16," Bianco says. "I think kids around that age don't really understand the depth behind it and the mental illness. They just think people were mean to her so she killed herself. I think she was depressed for a long time."
Teaches kids to watch what they say
Beth Bambach, 40, a nurse from Baldwin, and her son, Shawn Moore, 18, a senior at Holy Trinity High School in Hicksville
Bambach’s older brother committed suicide when she was in high school, so “13 Reasons Why” hit close to home. She says she avoided watching, but she didn’t shy away from talking to her son about the series she knew he was following. “When I heard the premise of it, I was worried that I would get spiraled back into that time of my life, which was very difficult,” Bambach says. Moore told his mom that while he found the series a little disturbing, it also made him realize that people need to be careful how they talk to others. “It just taught me … to watch what you say to other people because you don’t know how they could take it,” Moore says. “I really liked the first season, the thrill of it; it kept you on the edge of your seat -- what’s going to happen next?” He’s planning to watch season two. “I actually saw the trailer and it seemed pretty good,” he says.
PARENTS: GET INVOLVED
James Polansky, superintendent of Huntington School District
Polansky sent a letter to parents alerting them to the show’s resurgence and encouraging them to watch together with any children who are viewing it so they can talk about the content. He included a roundup of resources specifically regarding season 2 that was put out by the National Association of School Psychologists. “It appears it’s going to go back at some complex social issues,” Polansky says. “It does sound like it’s going to be the type of content not every child may take well to. In this day and age, you can’t be too careful with this type of thing.”
Concerned about gun scenes
Meryl Cassidy, executive director of the Stony Brook-based Response Crisis Center, a suicide prevention organization
Cassidy says she’s “worried” about how guns come into play in the story. “With Parkland and all the events that happened this year, it’s very topical," she says. "I just hope it’s done in a sensitive way.” Cassidy says she is happy, however, that Netflix provided talking points for parents and says she thinks they are “really pretty good.” She says she especially likes the segment that examines sexual assault from the issue of consent -- how to talk to both boys and girls about that -- and that suicide prevention is addressed as well.
Watch kids closely for impact
Dr. Vera Feuer, director of pediatric emergency psychiatry and behavioral health urgent care at Cohen Children's Medical Center, New Hyde Park
"I'm anxious," Feuer says."I'm already worried about how the emergency room is going to be." Feuer serves as co-chair of the Emergency Child Psychiatry Committee of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Last season after the show streamed, Feuer says her ER and emergency rooms nationwide saw a spike in the number of kids with suicidal thoughts and other behavioral health issues. May is already a time when adolescents are at the height of stress due to end-of-the-year exams, she says. She says she is hoping the new season will be more about characters' healing and therapeutic repair.