The Brief: Netflix's 13 Reasons Why is a controversial series that deals with serious topics, most notably, teen suicide.
Produced by Selena Gomez, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of a teenage girl, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide. Before her death, Hannah recorded 13 tapes, implicating various people in her death. The show takes place after her suicide, as her friends and classmates deal with the aftermath of her death, and discover more about her troubled life. The second season of the show continues to follow her classmates’ lives, particularly in the wake of a trial, and a conspiracy to cover up cases of sexual assault. 13 Reasons Why includes depictions of drug use, drinking, bullying, slut-shaming, cursing, sex, violence, sexual assault, and suicide.
Although the creators of the series say that its portrayal of suicide is intended to open up discussions about a pressing and often taboo subject, many mental health experts have pointed out how the show’s dramatized portrayal is both unrealistic and potentially harmful. The show’s simplification, romanticization, and graphic depictions of suicide can contribute to serious and dangerous misunderstandings of suicide and suicide prevention. Additionally, the show perpetuates the false idea that people who commit suicide do so in order to teach others a lesson or to exact revenge on those who have wronged them. The detailed imagery of Hannah’s suicide are potentially triggering to those who have attempted suicide, lost loved ones, have suicidal ideation, or who struggle with mental illness.
Many mental health professionals and educators advise against children or teens watching the series. The National Association of School Psychologists put together a guide on the series, as it relates to discussions of and awareness about mental health and suicide. The Suicide Prevention Resource Center has a useful set of resources about the show as well.
Suicide Prevention Resources: