ARARAT, Victoria, Australia – In the last few weeks, Australian schoolyards have been home to conversations surrounding the increasingly popular new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
The show, which was released in Australia late last month, is based on the book by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why.
The story followers a teenager whose crush committed suicide just weeks before he received a box at his front door. The box contains the 13 reasons why she
committed suicide, and he could be one of them.
I have not watched the series or even an episode, but from what I have been hearing, a large majority of my school has. I have researched the show, warnings on the show and statements from Netflix.
I want you to make your own opinion, because no doubt people have many different views on this heated topic.
The show explores the challenges of teenage years, with bullying and suicide the key topics. It is done in a way that may seem confronting to some viewers, with graphic footage of suicide methods shown in the series.
According to a parent advisory on IMDB for the show, Hannah, the main character, is seen in episode 13 cutting her wrists with a razor blade. A large amount of blood is seen, according to the advisory, which warns parents that the scene is very emotional and hard to watch.
I believe, in the writers’ minds, that the show is aimed at preventing suicide. However, a large number of teenagers are watching this series and this extreme content is pretty much demonstrating how to kill yourself, which in my mind is going to do the opposite.
What I found even more unsettling was when I asked my classmates if they had watched it, some replied with, “No I haven’t, but it sounds good.” This sent shivers down my spine. Who is telling these people that it’s a good series when it’s based around suicide, depression and rape?
Columnist Melissa Weinberg of The New Daily, an Australian news site, wrote about her changing thoughts on the show.
“I began watching and I was hooked,” wrote Weinberg, who describes herself as a psychologist with a PhD on her Twitter profile. In the column, she wrote that she works primarily with adolescent mental health concerns.
In her Weinberg even recommended the show to others “as a bold and intriguing series that dared to broach the topic of suicide. Until I watched the final episode.”
Weinberg watched the final episode despite the graphic content warnings as she didn’t expect to actually watch someone commit suicide, but that is what she was confronted with.
“I knew you weren’t supposed to show that stuff on TV, so I kept waiting for it to stop,” Weinberg wrote. It didn’t.”
In the column, published April 21, Weinberg warned, “This is what your kids are watching now. And you should be concerned.”
Headspace, the national youth mental health foundation in Australia, released a warning on the 18th of April for 13 Reasons Why which outlined the risks of the show.
In a prepared statement, Kristian Douglas, national manager of headspace school support said the show “exposes viewers to risky suicide content and may lead to a distressing reaction by the viewer, particularly if the audience is children and young people.”
Headspace and its online counseling service eheadspace also brought attention to the increase of calls and emails they have been receiving in relation to the series.
When contacted for comment, Netflix customer service replied, “Here we’re Customer Service for billing and streaming issues only, so we’re unable to comment on the matter. I do assure you, though, that it’s definitely not our intention to glamorize or romanticize something as serious as suicide.”
Requests for comment from the media representative for 13 Reasons Why remained unanswered after several days.
13 Reasons Why is the number one subject of discussion in schools at present with this program causing a lot of unwanted publicity for the show.
I can’t believe this program is being aired with the target audience apparently teenagers. In my eyes, this series has the potential to encourage teenagers and young adults to commit suicide.
That’s a horrible thing to think or say, but it’s something I fear could happen.
Jack Ward is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.
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Great article Jack Ward. I didn't know much at all about this show and I thank you for this well researched and informative piece. It's all the more convincing – and impressive – because of your first hand knowledge of your peers and their reactions. It's a really important discussion – obviously we need the topic of suicide to be openly discussed and not be the hidden taboo topic like it has been in the past, but at what point is the line crossed into almost glamourising or at least promoting it? There is a definite risk I think that a vulnerable young person could be adversely affected by such graphic scenes. Keep up the great work Jack, regards Marianne