Sunday 21 January 2018

National Suicide Research Foundation criticises controversial Netflix series '13 Reasons Why' for 'glorifying' suicide

13 Reasons Why
13 Reasons Why
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

The National Suicide Research Foundation (NSRF) has expressed concern about controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why and its impact on vulnerable young people.

The series, which debuted on the streaming site last month, is based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher which tells the fictional story of a teenage girl who leaves behind 13 audio recordings on tapes after taking her own life.

The recordings are each addressed to a person who the girl says played a role in her tragic decision and the scenes in which she takes her own life are depicted in graphic detail.

The show has come under fire from suicide prevention groups internationally for glamourising suicide.

Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why
Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford in 13 Reasons Why

In a briefing issued on Friday the NSRF states that there is international evidence that detailed and graphic portrayals of suicide can have a negative impact on vulnerable young people in terms of an increased risk of copycat suicides.

The Irish body states that there is "violation of media guidelines for suicide reporting" across the series.

These include the fact that, "the graphic nature of reporting and the reporting of specific details of the methods involved can trigger copycat cases; the effects of exposure on suicidal behaviour and violence are well-documented."

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

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

Episodes depicting the memorialization of the girl at her school also come under fire as they "could be misinterpreted by young people as something they too will get if they die by suicide" and are "melodramatic" depictions of the aftermath of suicide which should be avoided.

The NSRF also states that 13 Reasons Why does not take into account there are strategies to improve mental health difficulties and prevent suicide which should be promoted when covering topics like depression, anxiety and bullying.

The body also calls on teachers, parents and guardians to talk with teenagers and children who may have watched the series about their emotions and thoughts.

Netflix released a statement saying the show "opened dialogue" for people to talk about suicide.

"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. We added explicit warnings on the three most graphic episodes, produced an after show, Beyond the Reasons, that 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."

Relevant helplines that can be accessed by people in distress include: Childline: 1800 66 66 66; Aware: 1800 80 48 48; Samaritans: 116 123 and relevant websites: www.reachout.com, www.aware.iewww.yourmentalhealth.ie, www.jigsaw.ie

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