Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ Accused Of Portraying Suicide In ‘Dangerous’ Ways
An Australian mental health organization is criticizing the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why for its “dangerous” depictions of suicide.
’13 Reasons Why’ Presents Dangerous View Of Suicide
The show, produced by Selena Gomez and based on a book by Jay Asher, follows the story of 17-year-old Hannah, who kills herself. Before her death, she recorded 13 tapes that detail why and who made her take her own life.
Headspace, Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation, says they have received “a growing numbers of calls and emails directly related to the program” and are urging people to “be aware of the dangers and risks associated for children and young people who have been exposed” to the show.
While the series addresses crucial topics like teen bullying and mental health, it also has graphic scenes of suicide, rape, and self-harm.
Executive producer Brian Yorkey attempted to explain the reasons behind the depictions. In a behind-the-scenes special, Beyond the Reasons, Yorkey said, “We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted to be very clear that there is nothing in any way worthwhile about suicide.”
Writer Nic Scheff also expressed his sentiments, saying in a statement that he wanted the suicide scene to be as graphic and realistic as possible, because he thought it would save lives.
Though well-intentioned, these goals are contradictory to multiple studies done on the subject, which show that explicit descriptions of suicide actually increase the rate of suicide.
Kristen Douglas, a spokesperson for Headspace, told Buzzfeed: “Children and teens are very exposed to things like contagion and high risk if they see another person’s suicide. It’s why we have a whole range of guidelines for media in Australia, but sadly things like Netflix don’t apply the same guidelines.”
Headspace has since received an onslaught of complaints from teens, parents, and schools as a result of 13 Reasons Why, with many saying the show triggered suicidal thoughts. These concerns are in opposition to the hundreds of memes and fan theories that the show has birthed. Ultimately, one of the central problems to 13 Reasons Why is that the show uses teen suicide as entertainment. While pop culture should explore such important subjects, the show does not do so in a deep, effective, or helpful way.
“Yes, we do need to talk about risks and young people’s mental health, but there are helpful and responsible ways to talk about suicide, and there’s harmful and irresponsible ways to talk about suicide,” said Douglas. “Whilst [13 Reasons Why] is raising a really important issue, it’s doing it in a really harmful way.”
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