By After School Communications Manager Michael Luchies
Controversial Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why is back, now with a warning for viewers. The extremely popular show, called “the most tweeted about show of 2017,” drew criticism for glamorizing suicide. Beginning in season 2 of the series, which follows the suicide of a fictional high school teenager named Hannah Baker, episodes begin with a message from members of the cast.
“13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics we hope our show can help viewers start a conversation. But if you struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you, or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. If you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor or an adult you trust. Call a local helpline or go to 13reasonswhy.info because the minute that you start talking about it, it gets easier.”
The warning message is intended to prevent at-risk viewers from watching and to encourage them to seek help. The show has created a website — 13reasonswhy.info — to share information and resources with visitors. The resources include information on how to connect with Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
While speaking at a recent event about media reporting on youth suicide, mental health experts shared concerns about the show, from how it turns a fictional suicide into a romantic love story to the the main character’s success at bringing attention to what’s happened to her after death.
The warning message and website is a step in the right direction for the show, and I do believe that they are spreading awareness to a problem that far too often gets overlooked. However, more needs to be done to ensure that reporting and fictional storytelling is done so following the appropriate guidelines, so shows like 13 Reasons Why will do more good than harm. This is a challenge that After School, as a social media network for teens, understands well.
What do you think? Does the show do enough to raise positive awareness to youth suicide? Share with us on Twitter @SafetyonSocial.