13 Reasons Why literally doesn’t follow ANY suicide prevention guidelines
Experts say it could do more harm than good
by Una Dabiero
This past week, there has been a lot of love and hate on the internet for Hannah Baker and her tapes. Some consider the show a breakthrough in depictions of mental illness while some think its an offensive portrayal of youth suicide.
But let’s get real here. No matter how realistic you think Hannah’s portrayal was or how valuable the show’s statements culture were — this show was never about helping people.
Why? 13 Reasons Why has a major flaw that has sat right under the nose of its millions of viewers: it doesn’t follow literally any of the recommendations for safe portrayal of suicide set by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
According to the foundation, the risk of “copycat suicide” following the coverage or portrayal of suicide “increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/ graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.”
They suggest avoiding “including photos/videos of the location or method of death, grieving family, friends, memorials or funerals” along with avoiding the description of suicide notes or describing a suicide as “inexplicable or without warning.”
The entire concept of ’13 Reasons Why’ is the surprising death of a young woman and the exploration of her suicide notes! That, along with the disgustingly graphic scene of her suicide, is a recipe for violent reactions.
The show goes on to break several other recommendations, including adding statements about treatment options available. Not one hotline or resource is provided for viewers during the show. In fact, the writers suggest that getting help is futile in Hannah’s inability to get help from her counselor or peers.
One of the most infuriating guidelines the show breaks? The foundation suggests referring to research that suggests “mental disorders and/or substance abuse have been found in 90% of people who have died by suicide.”
Rather than developing Hannah’s mental state on screen, the story only follows how episodes in Hannah’s life directly led to suicide. The foundation specifically states that reducing a suicide’s cause to certain events “leaves the public with an overly simplistic and misleading understanding of suicide.”
If you’re an asshole, you might be saying, “Well who’s to say these recommendations are legitimate? Maybe there’s more than one right way to do things.” While published by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, they were made in conjunction with:
“American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Annenberg Public Policy Center, Associated Press Managing Editors, Canterbury Suicide Project – University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand, Columbia University Department of Psychiatry, ConnectSafely.org, Emotion Technology, International Association for Suicide Prevention Task Force on Media and Suicide, Medical University of Vienna, National Alliance on Mental Illness, National Institute of Mental Health, National Press Photographers Association, New York State Psychiatric Institute, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, Suicide Prevention Resource Center, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UCLA School of Public Health, Community Health Sciences.”
The shows negligence for the health of its viewers is apparent. This show was sensationalized to become a cultural phenomena and as a result, it could cause harm to many people who are currently struggling with suicidal thoughts or ideation.
Depression is important. Its important we talk about it. But its even more important that we protect those that struggle with it every day.
Not cool, Hannah Baker.
To learn more about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s media guidelines, visit their webpage.
If you or someone you know are struggling with suicidal thoughts, you can reach the suicide prevention hotline 24/7 at 1-800-273-8255.