’13 Reasons Why’ Under Fire For Controversial Representation Of Teen Suicide

The Show May Have Had Some Serious Collateral Damage

“13 Reasons Why” has taken the world by storm. Turning into a social media sensation, as even the Pope has tweeted about it. Becoming the most tweeted show of all times. But the show presents a very serious topic that has gone beyond social media. Since it has also got school counselors and parents on the discussion. As they pick up new ways to approach and tackle the topic. But the show’s strong content possible might have had collateral damage.

Many schools, counselors, and parents across the U.S believe it could be sending the wrong message to the younger audiences. The drama web mystery show is an adaptation of the young-adult novel by Jay Asher. It takes us through the aftermath of a youngster’s suicide, Hanna Baker and its results on its surroundings.

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Asking for help

The show takes on the average high school and middle school drama and surrounding. But it shows it’s less corny side. With a dark drama with glimpses of romance, allowing to actually see the rough patch and times teenagers actually live through. While keeping the always attractive formula of a teen drama.

Even though the acclaimed show has a darker tone in it, it tries to bring conscience about a very serious topic. That seems to be a more present reality than ever. Becoming actually part of the millennial pop culture, something in which the show has also played a part. Several psychiatrists have been doing damage control alongside school counselors in order to tackle the whole suicide subject. Many of them claim this kind of shows and pop culture content to be a double-edged weapon.

“Given the fact that there are large numbers of young people watching it anyway, I think school counselors need to think about how to be prepared to talk about it. Sometimes it is easier to talk about sensitive subjects when it comes to other people, it is easier when we talk about fictional characters, it gives us a nice more gentle way to approach these situations,” said Dr. Victor Scwhartz. He continued: “We are both concerned about both, the opportunity for conversations around mental health and suicide prevention, the worse gap we see is how the school counselor mishandles the interaction with Hannah, there are several things that could have been handled differently”.

It may have been overly dramatized and created some sort of glorification

Talking about it there are several things the show overly dramatized and were made completely for non-sensitive audiences. There are many reasons that could affect the average perception of sensitive subjects. Like for example on the 8th episode, when portraying dramatic real life experiences the show went a bit over board. Which completely sends the wrong message to young audiences when it comes to calling for help. Being this what concerns many specialists and parents on the subject.

Another of its dangerous appealing aspect is that Selena Gomez is the producer of the show. Also, the fact that the book was best-selling follows up to the John Green teenage drama era. So this is a show in which the clear target audience is High school and Middle school kids. This is what makes many parents ask about what effect it might have on this younger generations, especially since the nature of the topic. This fact shouldn’t be underestimated. Since many people have been comparing the show dark version of  “Perks of Being a Wallflower”.

Image Credit: Beth Dubber

The power of TV

Obviously, there are certain rules about suicide that media, in general, has. Something that the show certainly defied. As more than 50 research studies worldwide have found that certain types of news coverage can increase the likelihood of suicide in vulnerable individuals. The magnitude increases according to the amount of duration, and prominence of coverage. Also, there are the always the worrying “copycats,” as not suicide escapes from them. When suicide is portrayed in a glorified way it increases the chances of it. Be it through dramatization or any other method that makes it popular.

On the other hand, certain points of suicide shown on “13 Reasons Why” did in some occasions correct some misperceptions and myths about it. When it comes to the crew, they seem to be pretty down to earth about the sensitive content of the show. As the Executive Producer Tom McCarthy explained. “At the end of the day, we’re telling stories. We’re storytellers, and our job, probably more than anything, is to entertain. But when you get a piece of material like this that’s actually about something? You take that seriously and you really hope the discussion begins and will continue.”

They partnered with several foundations

So they also decided to partner up with some “good guy” foundations such as JED, which takes care of teens and protecting mental health to prevent suicide. Besides, the creators of the show consulted several other mental health professionals during the making of “13 Reasons Why”. But JED approached after production was complete.

It’s important to understand to what point, drama should be taken seriously. Even though it is important to understand the sensitivity of certain issues, it is the individual’s responsibility to understand that a show is just a show, and in order to act out, it is more important to reach out.

Image Credit: Beth Dubber




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