Does 13 Reasons Why encourage teen suicide?

13ReasonsWhy

13 Reasons Why, Netflix’s new teen crama centered around the suicide of a high school student, is receiving criticism from a suicide prevention advocacy group.

The show, based on Jay Ashey’s young adult best-seller of the same name, follows the story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves audio taped recordings explaining to thirteen different people about how they were culpable in her decision.

Dan Reidenberg, the 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 overidentify with Hannah in the series, and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series….I’ve heard from others that are really concerned because its so sensational and so graphic that they’re worried about the copycat effect of suicide.

Reidenberg went on to explain why he believes the show does more harm than good:

The way things are portrayed in the media does have an effect on the way suicides can happen, this is particularly true for young people that are very vulnerable and at risk of suicide. When they’re exposed to images that are really graphic, really sensational, and there is nothing balancing out for them … that they can get help and that treatment works and recovery is possible … we see them actually replaying what they’ve seen… The show actually doesn’t present a viable alternative to suicide, the show doesn’t talk about mental illness or depression, doesn’t name those words… My thoughts about the series are that its probably done more harm than any good.

Pop star Selena Gomez, who is a co-producer, said in a special about the show from Netflix called Beyond the Reasons, “We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest, and we wanted to make something that can hopefully help people, because suicide should never, ever be an option.”

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In many ways this is similar to the argument that often comes up when folks discuss MTV’s Teen Mom franchise. Some argue that the show only glorifies teen pregnancy and encourages young teens to become pregnant, while others believe it’s a major deterrent, as it often reveals the difficult consequences that come along with teen pregnancy and opens up a dialogue for a topic that was once completely taboo.

Jay Ashey has also addressed the topic, saying, “Suicide is an uncomfortable thing to talk about, but it happens, and so we have to talk about it. It’s dangerous not to talk about it, because there is always room for help.”

Co-producer Brian Yorkey added that they “worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch, because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide.”

Producers with the show further noted that they consulted extensively with mental health professionals while adapting the novel, and made sure to provide a crisis text line and web site at 13reasonswhy.info.

SAVE has published a memo featuring tips for watching 13 Reasons Why which you can read here.

You can also reach the free and confidential Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.


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  • Amanda Halladay

    Ugh seriously? I doubt it

    • Liz

      Ugh indeed.

      • Marianne Llanos

        I haven’t seen the show yet but when I was a teen and had rumors spread about me I didn’t get sad, I got even. I had a tough friend who taught me not to take that sh**! We wrote all over the rumor starter’s car in lipstick “liar” and toilet papered the whole car. We had a good laugh and I no longer felt like a “victim”.

        • Kat

          Haha, because you became the bully. Not a damn thing to be proud of here.

          • Marianne Llanos

            Yeah, the guy who lied to everyone about sleeping with me was surely bullied by lipstick and toilet paper. Give me a break! I didn’t start anything, I just defended myself.These young girls need to learn how to defend themselves and not be victims. That is not being a bully. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.

  • Marjorie Bowser-Bryant

    So…..maybe dont let your kids watch it…or maybe talk to your children prior to watching it….just saying.

  • disqus_m9FQwrPJZj

    I read the book AFTER my suicide attempt. The hospital I was staying at encouraged it to be read. Do you know what it did for me? It made me realize what I would be doing to everyone I loved had I been successful. The show gives me a chance to talk to my daughter now. I hadn’t been able to talk to her about it but now that she is 11 and her friends are watching it I feel watching it with her and talking with her about it might have an impact.

    • Caty P. :)

      @ disqus_m9, I’m so sorry for what you went through w/ a suicide attempt :( I also attempted suicide once, during a really rough stretch of depression. I watched 13 Reasons on Netflix w/ my husband, & thought they did an excellent job of showing how dissociated Hannah felt, and how many instances there were when she *almost* confided in various people that she was suicidal, but just couldn’t get the words out.

      What I hope most from the show is that viewers/readers who find themselves in a similar dissociated and desperate state of mind, will know that they have resources available. (Including calling 911, if you feel you are going to hurt yourself or others. I don’t think many people know that 911 is an option for you *before* hurting yourself. That really can save your life.)

  • TA

    I watched this with my two oldest kids (16 and 13) and we had a lot of discussions about mental illness and suicide, although we always have. I lost my best friend to suicide in middle school, and also attempted myself in high school.
    At the end of the Netflix series, there’s a 30 minute discussion with the author, the producers and several therapists with great dialogue about how suicide is never an option, among a lot of other things.

    Although parts of the show were difficult to watch and very emotional, I think it did a fantastic job at showing how suicide leaves all the sadness behind for those that love you. And also how, especially for young women, a small rumor or joke can become huge and severely impact a life.
    I definitely don’t think this is a series that kids should watch on their own.

    • Brie Mode

      I’m so sorry for you.

      I’ve lost a couple of people to suicide- one of my brother’s best friends that I knew from age baby and one of my own childhood best friends just this past October. We hadn’t been close in a really long time, but it still hurts.

      I also struggle with depression and it goes unmedicated now because I can’t afford therapy and medication never helped me even when I -was- on something. I never felt any different, so I stopped taking them. I’ve also overdosed on alcohol and prescription painkillers on accident (long story) and “died” on the way to the hospital.

      I hope you’re doing better now.

      • TA

        I’m so sorry you’re struggling. I’ve worked very hard over the last 7 years to wean myself off of medications that I felt were reducing the quality of my life. I was on 10 different medications daily for depression, Bipolar and Anxiety, it was horrible.
        I work with a Naturopath, and take crap ton of supplements everyday, which help a lot. I still have days that are really hard, but it’s just part of the disease.
        I hope you’re able to find some help, and can get in a better place. Sending lots of virtual hugs your way. Hang in there.

  • Sunquest

    I binged watched the series this past weekend. While I can appreciate the points made in some of the criticisms I’ve read, I still think it was well done with many scenes handled with much sensitivity. And, I found it both frustrating yet entertaining, which is the way watching soap operas made me feel –> “Come ON Clay, for Pete’s sake, FINISH the tapes!”

  • Thoughts

    I think the rape scene in the hot tub was so brutal… so hard to watch and i was not expecting that since the season started out very innocent in terms of drama. I do however wish they had better character development