‘13 Reasons Why’ is one of Netflix’s hottest shows right now. It is based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher. The book centers on the life of Hannah Baker and what led her to end her life. Suicide and mental problems is a growing problem for teenagers in the west so it’s no surprise why the book, especially the show, has garnered worldwide attention.
However, the show is currently under fire from experts. This led Netflix to add trigger warnings for the show. The decision came after piling criticism from numerous mental health experts who claims that the show allegedly glamorizes suicide and could potentially lead others, especially young adults, to copy the behavior depicted in the show. They also add that the portrayal of suicide in the show is wrong and could pose a serious threat for vulnerable teenagers.
Initially, the show was praised for shedding light on the issues faced by teenagers or people with mental health problems but after a while experts and even some of the show’s audience have complained that some of the scenes depicted on the show are too graphic. This led to some audience being triggered by the show and voicing their concerns warning everyone that the show is too graphic. They even added that show needs to give people a more accurate warning when watching it.
“It’s not only the content, but the message it gives, which is that there is no help and that suicide is glamorous and effective. It’s a false message, and it has a contagious effect.” Harold S. Koplewicz said, President of the Child Mind Institute.
Obviously, the intentions were good. To shed light on the issue and also prevent people from committing suicide but experts say that it could possibly suggest the opposite.
The way the show is presented, according to experts, is that suicide could give the person a resolution. Hannah is the one narrating the story and this shows to the audience that she is getting a resolution. It also portrays suicide as a simple blame game reinforcing that the only way you can be heard is by committing suicide or that it can be used as a tool to make your tormentors suffer.
It also glorifies self-harm in which a character of the show is seen saying “it’s what you do instead of killing yourself.” Depicting self-harm is a good “compromise” instead of suicide.
Since the debut of ‘13 Reasons Why’, many organizations have issued warnings on behalf of the show and how it handled the topic of youth suicide. Adding that the show romanticizes suicide or that suicide is for revenge.
Meanwhile Jay Asher, the author of the book, has openly defended it. Jay Asher defends the graphic scenes of the show stating that he purposely added those scenes to make the audience uncomfortable. “You have to be uncomfortable when you’re watching it; otherwise you’re not in her mind. In a way, it’s disrespectful if say, ‘We know this stuff is happening, but we don’t want to be made uncomfortable by it.” He continues. “I wanted guys to be uncomfortable when they read it, and both the book and the TV show made a point of noting that Hannah never says no, because that’s what we always hear, right? ‘When a girl says no, she means no.’ But there are plenty of times when a girl’s afraid to say no for various reasons, and it doesn’t mean, ‘Oh, as long as they don’t say no, then everything’s fair game.’ You need to be a better person than that.”
13 Reasons Why writer Nic Sheff have defended the depiction of suicide on the show as well saying in an interview by Vanity Fair that “From the very beginning, I agreed that we should depict the suicide with as much detail and accuracy as possible. I even argued for it – relating the story of my own suicide attempt to the other writers.” He recalls his own struggles that when he was about to do it, he remembered the graphic story told by a woman he met in rehab. He said that story saved his life.
Dylan Minnette, who plays Clay Jensen, has stated in an interview with Ellen Degeneres that “The main goal, I think, overall is just to start conversations that we think are necessary to be had, and to bring these issues to light and to show them in a real way. And, if people are talking about it, we reached our goal – ‘cause these conversations…people need to talk about this.”
While there are many arguments and controversy shedding light on the real issues of suicide and mental health, experts said that there is a need to talk about the risks and mental health issues but they also stated that there are responsible ways to do it.