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“13 Reasons Why” and Responsible Discussions Around Suicide

April 27, 2017

There is currently a popular television series on Netflix that is centered around youth suicide and as such is opening discussions about this important topic. There is however, much criticism of how the show “13 Reasons Why” presents suicide and many are concerned that the popularity of the series will increase suicide ideation and attempts amongst viewers.

If you or someone you are working with is at risk of suicide, please call the confidential, 24/7, Toll-Free Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line at 1-877-435-7170.

If you have watched the series or are likely to be interacting with folks who have watched the series, I suggest you read the following pieces which encourage responsible discussions around suicide.

Responding to 13 Reasons Why by Michael Redhead Champagne

Excerpt: I recently binge watched the new Netflix series 13 Reasons Why — All 13 episodes in 24 hours. To summarize, it is a series about a young woman who dies by suicide and leaves 13 cassette tapes behind t o share insights with 13 people who were the “reasons why”.

I was captivated. And horrified. And confused. And sad. And relieved.

Statement re: Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series by The Centre for Suicide Prevention

Excerpt: This is a statement regarding the recent Netflix release, 13 Reasons Why, which follows the story of a young girl who dies by suicide.

The Centre for Suicide Prevention (CSP) is concerned that the Netflix adaptation of Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why novel does not follow the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention and the American Association of Suicidology’s media guidelines.

CHMA National Statement Responding to Netflix Series: 13 Reasons Why

Excerpt:

The following are ways in which portrayals of suicide may be harmful:

  • They may simplify suicide, such as, by suggesting that bullying alone is the cause;
  • They may make suicide seem romantic, such as, by putting it in the context of a Hollywood plot line;
  • They may portray suicide as a logical or viable option;
  • They may display graphic representations of suicide which may be harmful to viewers, especially young ones; and/or
  • They may advance the false notion that suicides are a way to teach others a lesson.

Suicide is an important public health issue and must be treated as such. Responsible, informed conversations around suicide are important to reducing stigma and ensuring those at risk get the help they need.

Breanna Sawatzky, Mental Health Coordinator (blsawatzky@rrc.ca)