If you suffer from poor mental health, avoid watching 13 Reasons Why at all costs
It’s more harmful than helpful, say experts
If you’ve been online in the past few weeks it’s impossible to ignore Netflix’s latest juggernaut, the adaptation of Jay Asher’s young adult novel 13 Reasons Why. But if you struggle with your mental health, the constant exposure to a series aiming to raise awareness of depression and suicide could be more harmful than helpful.
As the show grows more and more popular mental health experts are warning that for those who may be struggling like Hannah, watching the show could be an unnecessary trigger. Australia’s Youth Mental Health Foundation, headspace, said they’d experienced “a growing number of calls and emails directly related to the programme”, and released a statement urging people not to watch it.
Dr Steven Leicester, of headspace, said: “There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience – and on a young audience in particular.” The organisation urged schools, parents and mental health charities to be a aware of the impact the show could have on young people and children exposed to it.
And headspace aren’t the first to speak out against 13 Reasons Why, which included a graphic suicide scene when Hannah slits her wrists in the bath. Dan Reidenberg of the organisation Suicide Awareness Voices of Education said: “There is a great concern that I have that young people are going to overidentify with Hannah in the series and we actually may see more suicides as a result of this television series.
“The show actually doesn’t present a viable alternative to suicide. The show doesn’t talk about mental illness or depression, doesn’t name those words. My thoughts about the series are that it’s probably done more harm than any good.”
Even Barb from Stranger Things (fuckin’ Barb) has waded in. Shannon Purser, the actress who plays Barb and Ethel on two of Netflix’s other shows, Stranger Things and Riverdale, tweeted: “I would advise against watching 13 Reasons Why if you currently struggle with suicidal thoughts, self harm or have experienced sexual assault.”
Nic Sheff, a writer on the show, was forced to respond to the criticism in an open letter. Earlier this week he wrote: “When it came time to discuss the portrayal of the protagonist’s suicide in 13 Reasons Why, I of course immediately flashed on my own experience. It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like – to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens when you jump from a burning building into something much, much worse.
“It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse. It’s the same thing with suicide.
“To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all – it’s a screaming, agonising, horror.”
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