The new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” has been stirring up controversy recently for its depiction of suicide.
In recent weeks, Netflix’s new original series “13 Reasons Why” has become a television phenomenon. The series is centered around teenager Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. However, there is a disturbing twist.
She records 13 tapes addressed to 13 people. According to Hannah, each of the 13 people contributed to her decision to commit suicide. However, the takeaway from the show paints a very unclear and unique depiction of suicide.
Basically, the premise of the show is to show what these 13 people did to cause Hannah’s suicide.
Is this message healthy, or misleading? The show is focused around blaming external reasons for an internal problem. This is problematic in that, as much as one can blame another for causing sadness, only the person committing suicide can ultimately take their life.
The show frames suicide as something that can be blamed on others, not the person committing it.
This portrays suicide as an external issue as opposed to what it really is, an internal one. Seeking out the proper treatment, therapy, and personal healing is the only way to help suicidal individuals.
While these 13 people may have hurt Hannah Badly, what Hannah fails to realize is that she is allowing these 13 issues to consume her to the point of no return, instead of choosing to look inside herself and seek out help.
The issues with the portrayal of suicide in the show caused reactions from the Psychological community.
The National Association of School Psychologists sent home emails to parents to warn them about signs of suicidal behavior. Wayside Youth and Family Support Network, a residential and hospitalization clinic for teens with mental health issues in Framingham, is making sure that patients do not discuss the series among themselves.
Wayside Campus Clinical Director Dana Zais noted that “there is a contagion factor when a school has a suicide”.
She said that the show “13 Reasons Why” paints a misleading and dangerous picture for teens. The show portrays graphic scenes including wrist-cutting and rape. It shows Hannah as completely helpless; her destiny dictated by these 13 people and what they did to her. In a way, the show disturbingly seems to romanticize and justify her suicide and the blame on the individuals who “caused” her death. The show also depicts school guidance counselors as distant and unhelpful. In turn, these qualities could appear as justification for viewers to take the same course of action, and turn away from potential life-saving therapy.
It is important to remember that there is much more to suicide than blaming others.
By working with one’s parents, friends, teachers, and therapists, one can hopefully escape the clutches of depression and suicide. “13 Reasons Why” failed to show the whole picture on this troubling issue. Netflix has followed up to the controversy by adding a warning to the start of the show.