NETFLIX’S latest hit, 13 Reasons Why, has come under fire from a leading youth mental health organisation for its depiction of teen suicide.
The series was based on a popular young adult novel by Jay Asher and was executive produced by Selena Gomez. It stars Australian actor Katherine Langford as Hannah, a high school student who commits suicide before the start of the series.
Her friends and classmates then receive a series of cassette tapes which detail the anguish she felt, told through a series of flashbacks, and why she blames them for her desperate action.
However, Headspace has issued a warning about its content and the show’s “very confronting and graphic messaging and imagery, inclusive of suicide method and means.”
Headspace said in the weeks since 13 Reasons Why’s debut, the service had received a growing number of calls and emails directly related to the series.
Headspace’s national manager of school support Kristen Douglas 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.”
The organisation is asking health services, teachers and parents to be mindful of the dangers inherent in the series’ content.
Headspace boss Dr Steven Leicester said: “There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience.”
Australian media agree to guidelines developed by mental health experts in terms of how suicide is depicted or reported. Details such as method are suppressed because it’s thought it could lead to contagion.
13 Reasons Why was released on the streaming service at the end of last month and received predominantly favourable reviews.
Speaking to a panel of journalists in February, Gomez said 13 Reasons Why was a personal project for her because she could relate to the pain of the characters in the story.
“(The project) hit a very important part of me,” she said.
“We’re not going to post things like be empowered because that’s not what they want to see. Unfortunately, kids don’t care.
“They have to see something that’s going to shake them. They have to see something that’s frightening and follow these people. I want them to understand it.
“I would do anything to be able to have a good influence on this generation and it’s hard but I definitely relate to everything that was going on and I was there for the last episode and I was a mess just seeing it all come to life because I’ve experienced just that for sure.”
Gomez added she hoped it was a series kids could share with their parents so they could talk about these important issues together, and that it could ultimately bring light to a dark topic.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Headspace on 1800 650 890.