In a contribution post, the Donegal Youth Service explain why Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why has shown that our young people need us to look out for them.

Weeks after it was first released, 13 Reasons Why is still the TV show on everyone’s lips.  The Netflix original production which is based on a book of the same name has been seen all around the world by young people and adults alike.

It has been praised by many for addressing serious issues such as rape and suicide head on, but it has also been criticised for glamourising suicide and depicting it recklessly without creating a broader discussion around mental health and real solutions.  

Earlier this week, Netflix responded to the critics and will be adding much stronger warnings to the most distressing episodes, however many younger children and teenagers have already watched it, so it’s important that parents talk to them about it.

Articles and reactions to this show are widely available in the media, and it’s clear we need to talk about mental health.

Young people today are facing a unique set of difficulties that previous generations did not experience, and recent research has shown that they are facing more stressors than ever before.  

The rise of technology and super computers that fit in our hands is an incredible feat for humanity, but as 13 Reasons Why showed, one picture taken on a smart phone can be shared around an entire school in moments and that can be devastating.  

One in four young Irish people have experienced cyberbullying, and their lives are documented and recorded in a way that no adult has experienced.  This is just one of the many issues facing young people today.  It is so important that we take their issues seriously, and don’t assume that young people today have it easy.

Cyberbullying in 13 Reasons Why. Image: Netflix

When a young person has a problem, they will try and fix the problem alone, or in some cases ignore, deny or cover it up and hope it will go away itself.  They are more likely to ask for help only when their symptoms have become quite severe and they have run out of ways to try and solve it by themselves.  

Early intervention before it escalates is ideal, but not always so simple.  

There are many things that can cause problems for young people, and what distresses one teenager may not another.  However, there are some early warning signs to look out for as a parent:

  • Change in appetite/change in weight (either loss or gain)
  • Change in mood, such as increased mood swings
  • Change in sleeping patterns
  • Results or attendance at school deteriorating
  • Visibly upset, anxious or depressed
  • Withdrawing from family and friends/spending more time alone
  • Withdrawing from doing activities they used to enjoy
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing
  • Self-harming/covering up more than usual

Image: Netflix

It is important to remember that everyone is different and these issues can present completely different in each person, it is about looking at the overall picture.  One person might stop eating, and the next might begin to over eat, and a person does not need to tick each box to be struggling with their mental health.

As a parent, it is important to pay attention to your gut feeling on the matter; you know your child well and you may notice first a negative change in their day to day functioning.

Image: Netflix

Help is available at all stages and there is a service to suit everyone. Encouraging a young person to seek support for their mental health can be a delicate process, but here are a few tips:

  • Listen to them first
  • Inform yourself about mental health
  • Talk to them about mental health
  • Believe what they have to say
  • Do not minimise or patronise their distress
  • Give them choices as to how they can get support for their mental health
  • Make sure they are involved in all aspects of the process, or as much as they want to be
  • Listen to their opinions regarding decisions made about their healthcare
  • Encourage them that getting extra support is what adults do when they need help
  • Do not force them to take part in something they do not want to as this will cause more harm than good

Although 13 Reasons Why is certainly not perfect, and many of the criticisms are valid, it has certainly started important discussions around mental health and young people and we must not stop talking.  Our young people need us.

– Louise Lynch, Teen Talk Coordinator at Donegal Youth Service. Visit to find out about services in your area.

Local services for young people and parents (not a comprehensive list)

Your GP – HSE advice is that your GP should be your first port of call.  They will be able to direct you to the most relevant service.  

Teen Talk at Donegal Youth Service is a free and confidential service for young people aged 12 – 25 which can be used as a stand alone support or as a complimentary service.  Saturday and evening appointments are available on the Port Road, Letterkenny.  Contact (074) 91 29640 or visit for more information.

Jigsaw Donegal provides a free and confidential support service for young people aged 15 – 25, with a drop-in centre on Pearse Road in Letterkenny.  Check out or call (074) 97 26920 for more information.

Camhs (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) is a free service for children and young people up to age 18.  Contact them for more information Letterkenny (074) 91 20340 or Donegal Town – (074) 97 24200

Parentstop is a free and confidential support service for parents based in Co Donegal. Parents come to Parentstop for one-to-one advice and support on any parenting challenge they are facing at this moment in that time.  Visit for more information, or call (074) 91 77249 for Letterkenny, (074) 93 73493 for Inishowen, 086 849 4038 for South Donegal or 087 714 9789 for North West Donegal.

Donegal Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre offer counselling, support and advice to survivors of rape and sexual abuse in a confidential, safe and friendly environment.  For more information visit

If you suspect harmful behaviour, or are concerned about suicidal talk or actions contact an emergency service immediately and never take risks.