Why “13 Reasons Why” Has Sparked Controversy

Mental health organisations have criticised Netflix for their latest original series 13 Reasons Why.  The shows protagonist takes her own life, leaving behind a set of pre-recorded tapes to various recipients with the intent to enlighten how that person contributed to her act.  Viewers learn that her suicide was performed as a ‘revenge act’, and schools across the US have warned parents that the series glamorises and trivialises suicide.

Critics are not advocating that suicide be absent from media, rather that the series depiction is flawed.  The show portrays graphic scenes of suicide method which has led to backlash for being ‘dangerous’ as research has shown that youth exposure to another’s suicide can contribute to thoughts of suicide, and the detailed representation could be viewed as a guide and lead to ‘copycat suicides’ amongst vulnerable individuals, like young people or people with mental health difficulties.

Organisations have also condemned the show for trivialising and simplifying causes of suicide, ignoring the complexities and combination of factors that usually cause suicidal feelings.  Writers of the series oppose these views, stating the show acknowledges the many reasons that could lead to suicide.  Writers have also expressed the need for people to have more conversations about suicide and believe this was achieved through 13 Reasons Why.

Another major issue, central to the series, is the presentation of suicide as an act endorsed by reasons that could be experienced by many, and again, vulnerable people, including young people could identify with these experiences which may lead them to contemplate and interpret suicide as a reasonable act.  Samaritans have an advisory set of guidelines; detailing ways suicide can be reported in the media in a sensitive and appropriate way, and much of 13 Reasons Why has defied this.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts it is important to get support, and psychotherapy or counselling may help.  In the first instance, it is vital to seek help whether it be by contacting a hotline, like Samaritans, speaking to your GP, contacting a clinic such as The British CBT and Counselling Service or seeking peer support.

Need help now? Call Samaritans on 116 123 or visit www.samaritans.org

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