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Friday 28 July 2017

Netflix suicide show sends 'dangerous message' to teens

'13 Reasons Why' is carried by Netflix
'13 Reasons Why' is carried by Netflix

Chai Brady

The Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' has come under fire for "glorifying" suicide and potentially triggering copycat cases.

Mental health bodies have criticised the show, and New Zealand authorities have banned under-18s watching it without an adult. Schools in Canada and the US have also issued warnings about it.

The series, based on a 2007 book by Jay Asher of the same name, focuses on a young girl who takes her own life.

A mental health support website for young people said an open dialogue needed to be kept between parents and teenagers.

"A lot of young adult fiction is very dark, and adults aren't reading it so they don't know," said Naoise Kavanagh, from Dublin-based ReachOut.com, adding that the show was "very graphic".

She said it was based on a "revenge fantasy" which sends a "dangerous message".

"It's really important that everyone has this discussion about suicide, young people are very aware of the notion but thoughts don't have to turn into actions. It's about using the premise of the show to have an open and balanced discussion.

"But it's not an educational series, it's glamorising, it's glorifying, it's all the gloss of editing and software when in actual fact what happens is not the solution," she added.

The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) has also warned about the series.

"There is no consideration of young vulnerable people who may over-identify with the teenage girl in '13 Reasons Why' who ends her life," a statement read.

"There are elements of glorifying and romanticising suicide, which may further impact on people who are considering suicide or self-harm."

Netflix has defended the show saying:

"We’ve heard from our members that 13 Reasons Why has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the intense themes and difficult topics depicted in the show.

"We knew the material covered sensitive topics, as the book did when it was published in 2007, and we worked with mental health experts to show how these issues impact teens in real and dramatic ways."

The company added that the series was rated 18s and warnings were included on the three most graphic episodes.

"The aftershow, Beyond the Reasons, delves deeper into some of the tougher topics portrayed, as well as created a global website to help people find local mental health resources. We also provide parental controls," a spokeswoman added.

The NSRF highlighted the numbers of Childline (1800 66 66 66), Aware (1800 80 48 48) and Samaritans (116 123).

It comes amid reports of an online "suicide game" called Blue Whale which is feared to be putting young children and teenagers at risk. In Russia, unconfirmed reports linked the deaths of some teenagers to the Blue Whale challenge.

While Blue Whale may have initially been a hoax, there are concerns some young people are exploiting it to encourage others to self-harm.

The Department of Education directed anyone concerned to www.webwise.ie/parents/blue-whale-game-hoax/.

Irish Independent

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