13 Reasons Why’s depiction of suicide sparks notes from capital region schools

 Mike Devlin / Times Colonist

May 2, 2017 10:24 PM

A controversial Netflix series that deals with teen suicide and sexual assault has brought the issues of bullying and mental illness back into focus for school administrators in the capital region.

13 Reasons Why, based on the best-selling young adult novel of the same name, prompted the Ministry of Education to issue an advisory last week, warning school districts of risks it may present to vulnerable students.

It included a list of talking points to encourage discussion between parents and teens, courtesy of organizations Safer Schools Together and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

The series follows the fictional story of a teen girl who kills herself and leaves behind 13 audiotapes detailing the events that led to her death, including sexual assault, substance abuse and bullying. It includes a scene of the girl’s death, prompting criticism it is romanticizing suicide.

Greater Victoria school district superintendent Piet Langstraat said he forwarded the advisory and supplemental material to school officials, but left the decision on whether to send messages to parents up to individual school counsellors and administrators.

“I’m always hesitant to reach into the homes of parents and say this is what you should and should not do,” Langstraat said. “But, at the same time, I think it’s important to provide the support, should it be necessary.”

All seven high schools and 10 middle schools in the district were given the material, and most passed along the information to parents.

Harold Caldwell, director of learning support for the Greater Victoria school district, said the response has been positive. “Nothing negative at all,” he said.

The show premièred March 31 and almost immediately ignited a social media firestorm. In the span of just three weeks, it generated more than 11 million tweets on Twitter, making it the most-discussed television show of 2017, according to Variety.

Sooke school district superintendent Jim Cambridge felt it was important to supply relevant information to every parent in his school district, without admonishing the show itself.

“We were more concerned with the notion that it may have passed over some parents and guardians’ radar, simply because it was on Netflix,” he said.

The series has been praised for its realistic portrayal of several sensitive issues, but has also prompted concerns. According to the TV Parental Guidelines rating system in the United States, shows with 13 Reasons Why’s rating “may be unsuitable for children under 17.”

Viewer discretion warnings were already in place for some episodes. Netflix announced in a statement Monday it has added warnings to all 13 episodes in the series.

The streaming service defended the show as a “valuable driver” for young viewers to start “important conversation with their families” and has produced an additional special, Beyond the Reasons, to explore mental-health topics featured in the drama.

The streaming service has also created a website, 13ReasonsWhy.info, to connect people with mental-health resources.

Saanich school district superintendent Keven Elder, who has watched the entire series, applauded the program for its believability. “I thought it did a good job of demonstrating the kind of harm that can come from bad behaviour among peers,” Elder said. “I thought the message was very clear to be watchful of these things, and to not turn away from them.”

The possibility that some students might see it as glorifying suicide is a “real worry,” he said.

“But there is a lot of good to be taken from viewing it, if it wakes people up to the kinds of things that we too often turn away from.”

[email protected]

Mental-health resources

• Child, youth and family mental-health resources are available by calling:

250-952-5073 in Saanich

250-356-1123 in Victoria

250-952-4073 for aboriginal resources

• Suicide Helpline — 1-800-784-2433

• Vancouver Island Crisis Society — 1-888-494-3888 or vicrisis.ca

• Kids Help Phone — 1-800-668-6868 or kidshelpphone.ca

 SOURCE: Times Colonist – http://www.timescolonist.com/news/local/13-reasons-why-s-depiction-of-suicide-sparks-notes-from-capital-region-schools-1.18052768

Experts to discuss safe social media at Comp School

 By Jared Gottselig

May 9, 2017 – 10:00am

Sam Jingfors will be talking with parents and students on Thursday and Friday about responsible Internet usage.

Sam Jingfors will be talking with parents and students on Thursday and Friday about responsible Internet usage. Facebook

In the digital age, society is moving toward a constant connection with technology, and North Battleford Comprehensive High School (Comp School) wants parents to learn more about how to handle their children’s online usage.

Run by Safer Schools Together, Comp School is holding a workshop called Social Media Awareness + Parenting the Digital World on Thursday, May 11, to teach parents about a variety of topics regarding their children’s digital usage.

Sam Jingfors, Director of Operations of Safer School Together, says having a conversation between parents and children regarding responsible Internet use needs to happen as soon as possible, before incidents arise.

“Just being able to have that conversation proactively ahead of time is going to pay dividends when it comes to actually dealing with the issue,” Jingfors said. “I think it’s [a conversation] that can be done appropriately with parents and with kids together as a united front as opposed to leaving it up to the kids to fend for themselves in the expansive digital world.”

Parents can expect to learn about the latest apps and trends being used by children on social media, and how to balance their child’s autonomy while setting restrictions. There will also be a lesson on “digital footprints” Internet activity leaves, and how potential employers use this information during the application process.

Miscellaneous tips and tricks to handle their child’s online usage will also be provided to parents.

“It’s certainly something that we know is a very timely topic for all of these groups, and we’re that much more excited to get that conversation started,” Jingfors added.

This is a free event for parents of school aged children, and will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Comp School cafeteria.


Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”

PRELIMINARY ALERT – Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why”

We are receiving numerous calls with questions and concerns regarding the trending Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, specifically regarding its use as a suicide prevention educational resource. The producers of the series have stated that they wanted the show to assist those who are struggling with thoughts of suicide. The series does highlight the consequences of youth who are bystanders to such incidents and do not report them to an adult, and attempts to address a myriad of other topics such as rape, sex shaming, bullying and drunk driving.

Our primary concern regarding the use of this series as an educational resource is around the potential impact on youth who are vulnerable, have a history of trauma, are victims of related content, or are currently struggling with suicidal ideation. The overall content is very heavy (including the graphic depiction of a suicide death) and it is quite likely many of you are already seeing the impact of these complex traumatic triggers in your school community. While we are not aware of a single case where a student has said exposure to this documentary has lowered their risk, we do know of multiple cases (coast to coast) where it has increased their risk. In some communities, we are also already seeing imitator behaviour involving increased levels of suicidal ideation and individuals making their own version of “justification tapes”.

We are engaged in this discussion not to interfere with the professional autonomy of our educators, but to ensure the social, emotional and mental well-being of all staff and students. With this in mind, we offer the following recommendations to schools where this series is being considered for use in the classroom:

  • District staff and school administrators should work with counselling staff to be available as consultants to any teacher considering portioned uses of the series.
  • School administrators should feel confident that any professional inside their school considering the use of this medium is skilled to do so and that the school has adequate counselling contingencies to address any symptom development generated from the series.
  • Any episode or clips depicting method used to complete suicide should not be shown in the school setting.
  • District or school staff may want to issue a communication to parents to inform them about the series and strategies for discussing the content with their children (see “guidance for families” section of the NASP article below).
  • District or school staff may want to share the tips in the “guidance to educators” section of the NASP article below with those staff members that play a key role in supporting vulnerable students.

The following recent professional articles provide guidance for educators and parents:

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Sherri Mohoruk (604) 868-3949.



Kevin Cameron, M.Sc., R.S.W., B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.C.R.

Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress

Diplomat, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response

Theresa Campbell, M.A.

President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.


Download PDF Version of Alert – Preliminary Alert – 13 Reasons Why

Extended Critical Period Violence Threat Risk Assessment

Extended Critical Period Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) And Traumatic Aftermath

April 18, 2017

As many are aware, we are experiencing the largest extended critical period we have ever faced as we head into this week’s anniversary of Columbine. This critical period has been exacerbated by the ongoing dynamic political climate. There have been a number of recent hate crimes that were identified through the Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process responding to threat-related behaviour. These include: cultural/ethnic specific threats and incidents of violence, violence against sexual and gender minorities. We are expecting that this critical period will take us to the end of the academic year. This will increase the complexity of our work, as professionals, children and youth alike become increasingly tired as the school year winds down.

As the more recent high-profile incidents have not occurred in our country we need to be reminded that Canada is not immune to these types of incidents. In the field of VTRA we distinguish between “Traditional” versus “Non-Traditional” offenders and most of the high-profile crimes are being committed by the Non-Traditional (those with no history of violence until they commit the crime). We have also never seen a time in which serious violence and the justification for it has become so widespread and commonplace. Therefore, as has always been a theme in these ALERTS, increase your connections with those you are most concerned about.

It is clear that we need to recognize the work of our school communities and all partner agencies throughout the country in the field of VTRA. We would prefer these high profile targeted incidents of violence were not occurring but we have seen many proactive targeted prevention and intervention plans developed and implemented. We need to remind ourselves that through thoughtful collaboration and good information sharing, without a doubt, more lives have been saved than lost.

Different than previous Alerts where we provide VTRA specific reminders, we want to acknowledge your work, and also remind your communities about the importance of the community protocols and the need to revisit existing protocols to determine the need for any changes or additions. Take this time to celebrate your work, dedication, and commitment to the VTRA process and most of all take care of yourself and your own well-being.

Here in British Columbia, we should celebrate the current and ongoing commitment to this work by all levels of government through the ERASE strategy.

If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us directly.


Kevin Cameron, M.Sc., R.S.W., B.C.E.T.S., B.C.S.C.R.

Board Certified Expert in Traumatic Stress

Diplomate, American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Threat Assessment & Trauma Response

Theresa Campbell, M.A.

President, Safer Schools Together Ltd.

Download April 2017 Alert PDF:

Digital Threat Assessment Hinges On Education, Awareness

“A lot of people are still unaware how digital presence influences overall risk,”said Theresa Campbell, President of Safer Schools Together in White Rock, British Columbia, Canada.  This excerpt titled “Digital Threat Assessment Hinges On Education, Awareness” courtesy of LRP Publications 2017.

Download entire article here:



Illinois School Safety Newsletter

The Statewide Terrorism Intelligence Centre have printed an article in their January 2017 Illinois School Safety Newsletter about Safer Schools Together and our award winning  PSSTWorld.


Free 1 Year Trial of an Award Winning Online Anonymous Student Reporting Tool

“Schools need to provide students an anonymous way to be able to report safety related and concerning information to the decision makers in our buildings. This is known to be best practice and arises consistently during inquiries into the tragic aftermaths of school shootings. It is known that students aren’t utilizing phone tip lines and they have told us that they won’t install a reporting app on their smartphones. This is the reason that Safer Schools Together created the first Online Anonymous Student Reporting Tool in North America– PSSTWorld, in 2004. Legislation is catching up, for example both California and Texas require school districts to have an anonymous student reporting tool. In California, PSSTWorld won the Golden Bell Award for being the best school safety initiative. We stand firmly behind the inherent value that this tool brings to a school community and Safer Schools Together is willing to offer any school district in Illinois a free year activation of PSSTWorld. It is easy to implement, requires no extra work, and beyond the first year the cost is marginal. You will also receive user manuals, guidelines for responding to tips, and promotional posters and videos. We invite you to let the tool prove its worth. To set up your free year of activation please mail: [email protected]


SD8 psychologist: ‘A school is not an island’

What needs to happen when students threaten to harm themselves or others?

That’s a question the Kootenay Lake school district has been asking itself for years as it develops a collaborative, inter-agency approach to potential crises.

And earlier this year they put their violence threat risk assessment (VTRA) plan into action for the first time.

Read More:



Province seeks student feedback on anti-bullying strategy

Theresa Campbell, ERASE Bullying’s lead trainer and president of Safer Schools Together, said the anti-bullying strategy divides the province into eight different regions.

“(Government) looked at the eight regions and thought about a student from either Grade 8 to 12, one from each region (for the committee), allowing for an additional four positions from the independent schools,” she said.

The students will also be tasked with developing a social media guideline for the province’s 60 school districts and independent schools. Campbell said parents and districts will also be consulted on the strategy via districts’ safe schools coordinators and the BC Coalition of Parent Advisory Councils.

Campbell will be one of two adult subject-matter experts responsible for guiding the the committee’s discussions to get the most feedback out of students as possible.

– See more at: http://thetyee.ca/Blogs/TheHook/2014/01/17/Province-seeks-student-feedback-on-anti-bullying-strategy/#sthash.cqzCncqW.dpuf

Read full article on The Tyee website at the link below:


and more information at http://www2.news.gov.bc.ca/news_releases_2013-2017/2014EDUC0002-000040.htm

Program Aims to Make BC Schools Safer for All Students

The winter 2013 issue of Learn magazine featured an article on Theresa Campbell’s ERASE Bullying Strategy: a four-level series of workshops on creating safe and caring schools, preventing bullying, and identifying risks and responding to threats.

Read the full article:
Preventing Bullying: Program Aims to Make BC Schools Safer for All Students (PDF)

BC students now able to report bullying anonymously

A new website that allows BC students to report bullying anonymously has gone live: www.erasebullying.ca This was announced Tuesday during Premier Christy Clark’s anti-bullying forum. In the article, Theresa Campbell discusses current issues related to bullying and school safety.

Read the full article on the Vancouver Sun website:
BC students now able to report bullying anonymously

How parents can reduce bullying

Parents can play a critical role in helping reduce incidents of online bullying and getting help for young victims, experts say.

Theresa Campbell said a key message for parents is to keep the lines of communication open with their children so that they know if something goes awry.

Read the full article on the Times Colonist website:
How parents can reduce bullying

B.C. educators learn how to assess threats in schools

An Education Ministry forum Friday in Richmond drew representatives from all education partner groups to learn more about the ERASE Bullying program.

Read the full article on the Vancouver Sun website:
B.C. educators learn how to assess threats in schools