Netflix’s latest hit series, 13 Reasons Why, has come under scrutiny from multiple youth health services who say it glorifies teen suicide.
The hit series was based on a popular book but was brought to life by executive producer Selena Gomez. It follows the days and weeks leading up to Hannah Baker’s suicide.
Each episode delivers a new theme as it shows the different reasons why Hannah committed suicide and why she blames her friends and classmates for such a shocking act.
While Netflix users think the show is a hit, health professionals think otherwise and have issued warnings about the content and message the series is promoting.
Suicide rates in Australia are the highest they have been in over 10 years. The 2016 Australian Bureau of Statistics causes of death report had suicide as the leading cause of death for people aged 15-44, and in 2015, 3027 people died due to intentional self harm.
That’s more than 8 people every day, someone every three hours, feeling like suicide is the only option.
Youth health services such as Headspace try to reduce these statistics.
Headspace said it received an alarming amount of calls and emails relating to 13 Reasons Why and, just two weeks after the series’ release, issued a warning about its “very confronting and graphic messaging and imagery, inclusive of suicide method and means”.
Geelong’s Headspace manager, Malcolm Scott, believes the show’s approach to controversial themes were tackled poorly and could trigger reactions to those predisposed to mental illness.
“I feel that the show’s themes and scenes of sexual assault/rape, poor negotiation of consent around engaging in sexual activity, non existent exploration of accessing support services for survivors of rape, family violence, cyber bullying, sexting, homophobic themes, dangerous drug and alcohol use as well as the poor counselling support provided to the main character mean that the show is likely to trigger strong reactions in people with mental health and or drug and alcohol use issues and those who have experienced previous trauma,” said.
Mr Scott said that, while the show might encourage people to look out for their peers, it also neglected to present the strength that young people can show when given the right support.
“I agree the behaviours of young people could be influenced to look out for each other after viewing the show however I think our campaigns and others such as R U Ok day do this without the 13 Reasons Why approach. The show lacks anything positive about young people’s strengths and resilience which are so important to promote,” he said.
With the amount of people reaching out to Headspace for help regarding the show, there are several who agree and disagree with certain aspects of the series.
Lily, who has previously suffered depression and had self-harm tendencies, said the graphic content showing Hannah in the act of committing suicide definitely triggered feelings in her that she had not felt for years.
“The way the show played flashbacks of what was happening to Hannah gave me literal flashbacks of the bullying I experienced in school, and flashbacks of times I would sit in the shower and do harmful things to myself that I knew I shouldn’t be doing,” she said.
She said the way the series portrayed the lack of counselling help that Hannah received was not at all like the help she got.
“My school was incredible, they called in a counsellor because we didn’t already have one, and I would see him weekly, they made sure I would go to each appointment I had and the counsellor himself offered so much support and so many strategies on how to help me get better,” said.
Headspace also released a School Support file that helps guide schools and parents on how to talk to their children about 13 Reasons Why and why it thinks the show is misguided in its approach to teen suicide.
Mr Scott would also like every one to know that Headspace is there for young people who are have been affected by the show directly.
“We don’t wish to promote the show in any way and prefer a low key response, however we are here to support any young people aged 12 to 25 who have been impacted by this series,” he said.