Mental health experts discuss the pros and cons of "13 Reasons Why"

Published: Oct. 10, 2017 at 11:13 PM CDT
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The SOKY Read program selected "13 Reasons Why" as this year's community-wide reading project. Tuesday was World Mental Health Day, and 13 News attended a panel of mental health experts who met to discuss the book and its topics.

The New York Times Best Selling book, written ten years ago, is widely known for its recent Netflix series.

"It's a popular book with students and I think it's important to discuss any of the difficult issues of the novel in a productive way,"says Vicki Leibeck-Owsley, high school teacher.

The story focuses on a high school girl who takes her own life and leaves behind an explanation on 13 different tapes.

"A lot about this book and this TV show are kinda living out an ultimate fantasy of knowing why someone kills themselves. Less than 40% of people who kill themselves leave behind a note," says Megan Harden, LCSW, CEO at The Cognitive Refinery.

Mental Health experts explain their take on both the book and the TV series.

"I read the book, I didn't feel any sort of relief, or any sense of hope or anything," says Masami Matsuyuki, Ph.D., Staff Psychologist/Training Coordinator, WKU Counseling & Testing Center.

Many of them, vocalized their criticism for the Netflix series.

"I definitely prefer the book as a mental health professional over the TV series," says Harden.

Over-dramatization is one of the reasons for the criticism.

"I think a lot of things in the miniseries were more played up than in the book," says Leibeck-Owsley

Another reason is because it hits too close to home.

"It took me a while to finish reading it because it's almost like listening to someone who we see in counseling," says Matsuyuki.

While also disregarding the topic of mental health completely in the TV series, but noting it throughout the book.

"In about 75% of the cases they've seen, there is some type of mental illness that is present with this person," says Joy Graham, Director of Regional Prevention Center at Lifeskills.

Overall, the experts say while it's a troubling story, the topic of suicide needs to be constantly discussed.

"The fact that people will stand up and say that's terrible, that's good, 'cause that message I think spreads across a lot of young people's lives," says Karl Laves, Ph.D., Licensed Counseling Psychologist & Associate Director, WKU Counseling & Testing Center.

They also reiterated that it's most important for parents to be informed.

"I do recommend both the TV show and the book to parents. I do think that it's very beneficial for them to get to read this and have a little bit more insight into what high school is like," says Harden.

The author of "13 Reasons Why" Jay Asher will be in Bowling Green to discuss his book at the Young Adult Southern Book Convention on October 20th at 9 a.m. at Sky-Pac. To get a free copy of the book beforehand, go to the front desk at the public library.