On July 16, 2019, Netflix removed the controversial suicide scene from the teen drama 13 Reasons Why more than two years after the series premiered. The streaming service explained that the three minute long sequence from the show’s first season – depicting the main character taking her own life – has been re-edited on the advice of medical experts. While the decision has support from most of the medical community, there has been a great deal of pushback from the decision to axe the scene. There is no denying that the popular series has inspired a great deal of conversation that can apply to teenagers across the globe, from depression to sexual assault to bullying. That being said, 13 Reasons Why encourages far more in youth.
Since the series launched, medical professionals, parents, educational groups, and suicide-prevention experts have criticized Netflix for sensationalizing suicide in the manner they do in the series. In fact, before Netflix even aired the show, they were warned by experts that such a graphic portrayal of suicide went against every one of their guidelines. Such a disregard for the emotions, lives, and well-being of their audience – despite being made aware of the repercussions – displays how careless Netflix was and continues to be.
Netflix’s carelessness does not simply represent a changing mindset but literal lives being taken away from a multitude of individuals. A recent study from JAMA Psychiatry discovered a 30.3% increase in teen deaths by suicide after the series was released. Even though this study was released only a year after 13 Reasons Why was released, Netflix continues to air and produce content related to the series, only perpetuating a grave and truly troubling issue.
The American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and the Trevvor Project all support Netflix for removing the suicide scene itself. However, they have stated that a three minute clip does little when surrounded by a magnitude of suicide glorification. Throughout the series, we discover that the main character who took her own life only gets what she wants. After she commits suicide, all of her peers, guardians, friends, and aquaintances spiral into hopelessness and guilt. This disturbing timeline only solidifies the idea in its viewers that suicide can result in what the person originally wanted. Unfortunately, such a horrifying revelation to a viewer can result in convincing themselves to take their own life. Because the main character in 13 Reasons Why succeeded in winning her popular immortality, it will inspire others to follow in her footsteps.
Since Netflix released the episode, the show has faced increasing outcry from suicide prevention experts, who say that 13 Reasons Why is irresponsible at best and dangerous at worst. The fear of an increasing number of teens to die by suicide has become a reality.
For people who struggle with suicidal ideation, anything that can make suicide feel more familiar to them and cause them to keep thinking about can be incredibly harmful. That is a part of what leads to suicide contagion, the phenomenon in which medica coverage of a death by suicide can lead more people to die by suicide.
Additionally, 13 Reasons Why perpetuates the idea that death is impermanent. Throughout the second season of the series, the main character who committed suicide continuously manifests herself in a daydream manner to many other characters. While the show does not explicitly say that death is impermanent, them still being able to interact with her subtly displays it to the viewer.
13 Reasons Why must be removed from Netflix. Not only has it been statistically proven to cause suicide and self-harming behaviors, but it perpetuates dangerous ideas associated with suicide.
If you are in need of any help, please reach out at the following resources:
Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
Suicide Prevention Hotline in Spanish: 1-888-628-9454
– Maggie Di Sanza