Warning: This post discusses suicide and may be triggering.
Since debuting on Netflix two weeks back, original series ’13 Reasons Why’ has people divided – particularly experts in the field of mental health.
Targeted at teens and exploring subjects of bullying and suicide, the incredibly bingeable show was initially praised for introducing the topic of mental health into mainstream debate. However, mental health organisations are now coming forward to condemn the series’ message and explicit material.
The 13 episode program is admittedly flawed in several areas in its approach to mental health for adolescents. The current obsession over ’13 Reasons Why’ among young viewers has even prompted a spike in calls to counselling services, with an increasingly number of people distressed by the show’s content.
Australia’s youth mental health foundation Headspace has now issued a national warning regarding the series. Since its debut, both the Headspace School Support Program and eheadspace have received a growing numbers of calls and emails directly related to the program.
Addressing specific scenes in the series that explicitly show the suicide of character Hannah Baker, Headspace’s Kristen Douglas said the show exposes viewers to risky suicide content and may be dangerous for its intended audience of children and young people.
“National and international research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion,” she said.
The main criticism of the series from experts – in addition to including explicit suicide material – is that the episodes are aired without details for support centres and hotlines.
Netflix have not yet addressed whether support information will be integrated into the episodes in the near future.
If you or someone you know needs support, both Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 offer 24-hour assistance. For further information about youth mental health, both Headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance. Or you can also talk to a medical professional or someone you trust.