An Auckland school is warning parents about today's release of Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, saying it will likely raise the issue of suicide among students who watch.
When the first season was released it was widely watched by youths and drew concerns from the Mental Health Foundation, which feared the show's themes could harm vulnerable people.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC) even created the RP18 rating specifically for the first season, meaning anyone under 18 needed to be supervised by a parent or guardian (over 18) when viewing the series.
The OFLC has given the second season the same rating, meaning Netflix must warn viewers it contains rape, suicide themes, drug use, and bullying.
Season one followed American high school student Clay as he uncovered the 13 reasons why his friend Hannah Baker took her life, as detailed in a series of tape recordings she left behind.
The pending release of season two has prompted Auckland's Epsom Girls Grammar School to email parents that the show starts screening in New Zealand today.
"The themes of suicide, sexual assault, bullying and the unhelpfulness of talking to adults led many viewers to feel distressed and ongoing discussion to occur throughout the community.
"It is expected that similar and equally confronting themes will be present in the upcoming season."
Noting the topic of suicide and mental health was "difficult and challenging to navigate in a conversation", the email said, and the series resonated with young people and "provided an opportunity for them to discuss a subject most often difficult or discouraged".
Principal Lorraine Pound said the email was not so much a warning about the programme.
"It's more a case of we know that many people will view the show.
"We are seeking to support parents with what can be difficult conversations."
In classifying the new series the OFLC consulted with the Mental Health Foundation.
"There is a strong focus on rape and suicide in Season 2, as there was in Season 1," chief censor David Shanks said.
"We have told Netflix it is really important to warn New Zealand audiences about that.
"Rape is an ugly word for an ugly act. But young New Zealanders have told us that if a series contains rape – they want to know beforehand."
Shanks said parents and guardians should watch the series with their children, or at the same time.
"That way you can at least try to have informed and constructive discussions with them about the content."
The organisations have also produced an episode-by-episode guide with synopses of problematic content, and conversation starters to have with teens, available on their websites from 7pm tonight.
Shanks said they had no problem with content being produced for young people that addressed issues in a realistic way.
"But what we are concerned with is whether this material is actually realistic, and delivered in a safe and responsible manner. Many young people will watch 13 Reasons Why: Season 2 and not be negatively influenced by it – in some cases it could have value in starting conversations about real issues for teens.
"Approximately one in five young New Zealanders will have experienced a mental health problem in the last year, whilst one in three girls, and one in seven boys will be subjected to a sexual assault.
"This is the audience we are worried about – individuals who have been personally affected by the issues in the series. Suicide bereavement and sexual assault are both recognised risk factors for suicide. Young viewers in a heightened state of distress will be more vulnerable to the impact of the show – they can be put at risk by viewing it.
"This is a series that is about teens, it's been made for teens, and it's marketed very strongly and effectively at teens. And we know that the majority of teenagers in this country have watched Season 1. Season 2 has a similar overall feel to Season 1 and it raises more issues that are relevant to teens."
The school shared the Office of Film and Literature Classification guide to challenging media.
1. Share and talk about entertainment media with your teen
2. Encourage them to think critically about what they view
3. Talk about sensitive or complex issues
4. Support your teen if they're distressed by something they've watched
The school also added a point of its own.
5. Reminding and encouraging the idea of help seeking is important. Help make them aware of the range of support available within school, family and community.
Where to get help:
If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.
Or if you need to talk to someone else:
LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
DEPRESSION HELPLINE: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
SAMARITANS: 0800 726 666
NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)