A hit streaming video series that addresses a difficult, controversial, and dangerous issue head-on, asks tough questions, and makes for compelling watching. That sounds like a good thing, right? But what if the series in itself actually exacerbates the problem it's trying to address? What if it could actually cause someone to die?

Those are just some of the difficult questions surrounding the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which delves into the suicide of a teenager named Hannah Baker. Hannah has left behind a series of 13 cassette tapes, each addressed to someone who harmed her or failed to help her, and contributed in some way (she feels) to her ending her life. Her accounts begin with her voice on the tape telling one of her tormenters, "Welcome to your tape." The phrase became an instant social media meme with Twitter users jokingly tweeting "Welcome to your tape" in response to everything from the fact that someone finished the ice cream to Brexit. Even Netflix itself tweeted the phrase to tease its arch-rival Hulu.

There are two problems with this. The first is that suicide really isn't funny, and even if the Twitterverse is well known for its inability to stay within the bounds of human decency, Netflix should certainly know better than to use its own suicide meme as a joke.

The second is that suicide, especially among adolescent girls, has been on the rise for more than a decade. For teenagers, suicide tends to be contagious, as mental health professionals have known for a long time. (This is why teen suicides often occur in clusters, and why school officials typically take measures to prevent further suicides in a high school after one occurs.) 13 Reasons Why is a perfect example of a teenage suicide revenge fantasy, and teenagers cite revenge (i.e., now they'll know how badly they hurt me) as one of their most common motivations for suicidal thoughts. School officials in Florida have said they've seen a rapid increase in self-harming behavior among teenagers, and that a significant portion of them talk about the show when explaining their reasons why.

So far as we know, 13 Reasons Why has not actually inspired any teen suicides. But it does seem possible that it could. Or, it could possibly become one of the combined factors that pushes a troubled teen over the edge.

With this concern in mind, school officials from Canada to Australia to the UK--as well as throughout the United States--have issued warnings to parents about the show. New Zealand is actually requiring that teenagers may only watch the show in the company of an adult. In the U.S. the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) issued a lengthy warning, reprinted in the Washington Post. "Producers for the show say they hope the series can help those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide," they write. "However, the series, which many teenagers are binge watching without adult guidance and support, is raising concerns from suicide prevention experts about the potential risks posed by the sensationalized treatment of youth suicide." The statement goes on to say, "We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies." It's especially troubling that the adults in Hannah's life, such as her school counselor and parents, appear uncaring or out of touch. That aspect of the series could possibly discourage suicidal teens from asking for help from the adults in their own lives, NASP warns.

No one, no matter how concerned, is suggesting that Netflix withdraw the series, and indeed, given its wild success, many observers anticipate a second season. Netflix itself believes it is performing a public service by bringing this important and controversial topic to the fore, and recommends that parents watch it with their teenagers. It's also offering an additional video called Beyond the Reasons that it says "delves deeper into some of the tougher topics portrayed," and it's created a website where anyone with suicidal thoughts can find contact info to get help.

What should parents do?

What if you have one or more teenagers of your own and you're concerned about them watching 13 Reasons Why? Given the show's popularity and the widespread availability of Netflix, it's unlikely that you'll be able to stop a teen who really wants to see the series from doing so. If you can't, experts agree it's much better for you to watch the show with your child so that you can discuss it. (The writer Ijeoma Oluo did that with her formerly suicidal teenage son, and though she was terrified at the effect the show had on him, they wound up having a fruitful discussion.)

NASP also offers some in-depth suicide prevention advice for parents of teenagers. Here are some of the association's tips:

1. Watch for warning signs.

Teenagers sometimes actually say they are thinking of killing themselves. The notion that someone who talks about it won't do it is a myth, NASP says. They may also say things like, "I want this to stop," or "I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up."

Watch for changes in behavior, mood (including sudden happiness in a normally sad teen), and hygiene. Take note if a teen frequently includes death as a theme in writings, drawings, or social media postings. Giving away prized possessions can also signal suicidal thoughts.

2. Ask the question.

Teenagers likely won't tell you they're having suicidal thoughts and need help, but if you directly ask, they may tell you the truth.

2. Don't freak out.

If a youth tells you he or she is considering self-harm, or if you deduce it from the warning signs, stay calm. That's difficult advice to follow, but it is the best thing you can do to help an at-risk child. Don't be accusatory or angry. Emphasize your concern and love, and focus on listening to whatever the youth has to say.

Don't be judgmental. Do reassure the young person that the emotional pain they're feeling won't last forever. Things can and will get better.

3. Provide constant supervision.

If a teenager is feeling suicidal, never leave him or her alone, NASP advises. Remove access to weapons and other items the teenager could use for self-harm.

4. Get help as soon as possible.

Never agree to keep suicidal thoughts secret. Work with your school or your community to get help from a mental health professional, the earlier the better. Your school should have such a professional on staff.