A new Netflix series has sparked a lot of discussion but its not for the reasons the entertainment company would hope.
The series called “13 Reasons Why” follows the story of a girl called Hannah who, over 13 epeisodes, explains why she took her own life. Viewers look back at Hannah’s life from her point of view and know that she is dead from the start of the series.
Hannah leaves a collection of tapes for people that have hurt her and in one episode Hannah’s suicide is revealed.
The show left viewers on the edge of their seats and with questions and reflections on their own actions. However, many feel that the scene depicting Hannah’s suicide was irresponsible and that the series glorified self-harm.
Suicide prevention activists argue the series does little to help viewers who might be struggling with mental health issues. They argue that the show does little connect the main character and her issues with severe depression and it offers no alternatives to suicide.
Dan Reidenberg, executive director for Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) told ABC News: “There is a great concern that I have… that young people are going to over-identify with Hannah in the series, and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series”.
Reidenberg added: “My thoughts about the series are that it’s probably done more harm than any good. There should be no reason, no justification whatsoever, why any kind of production – entertainment or news – would be so descriptive and so graphic.”
The series is based on Jay Asher’s young adult novel “Thirteen Reasons Why” which was released in 2007. The book was popular before the Netflix series. Actress and singer Selena Gomez was the executive producer of the Netflix show. She purchased the rights with her mum after they read the book and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The criticism comes at a time when mental health is at the forefront of people’s minds. Prince Harry’s recent comments about his own mental health struggles were positively received by the public and it is hoped more people will address their own issues. MP’s recently criticised BBC Drama The Fall for showing detailed depictions of suicide. They said “unnecessary detail” should be avoided.
Following the critical fallout, however, the show’s writer Nic Sheff defended the programme via a guest column on Vanity Fair. Having direct experience of addiction and attempted suicide himself as a young man, Sheff was “struck by how relevant and even necessary a show like this was: offering hope to young people, letting them know that they are not alone-that somebody out there gets them.”
In response to claims that the show has triggered vulnerable and already suicidal young people towards taking their lives, he said:
“I’ve been reading quite a few posts by suicide-prevention advocates and
other individuals expressing concern, or even outrage, at the show’s
decision to depict its protagonist’s suicide on-screen … It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we
could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they
call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through
in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse.
It’s the same thing with suicide. To play the tape through is to see the
ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all-it’s a screaming,
In a statement released to ABC News, Netflix bosses said: “We support the unflinching vision of the show’s creators, who engaged the careful advice of medical professionals in the scriptwriting process.”
According to figures form the charity Samaritans, there were 6,639 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland in 2015. In England and the UK, female suicide rates are at their highest in a decade.
Readers concerned or affected by the issues raised in the story should contact the Samaritans on 116 123 (www.samaritans.org) or Mind on 0300 123 3393 (www.mind.org.uk). Both charities can offer support and guidance.