Mental Health Professionals Weigh In On “13 Reasons Why”

(Photo: Beth Dubber/Netflix)

               The instantly popular Netflix original series, “13 Reasons Why” tells the tale of Hannah Baker who commits suicide and leaves behind audiotapes for the people she considers responsible for her death. The tapes serve as both justification and accusation for her suicide. Mental health professionals have voiced worry that the show’s portrayal of suicide is inaccurate and potentially very harmful.

               The concerned feel that “13 Reasons Why” glorifies suicide as a revenge fantasy and “romanticizes and sensationalizes” the idea of ending one’s life. The show’s creators argue that the purpose of the series is to help teens struggling with suicidal thoughts, but for families of victims of suicide, the drama can be extremely triggering. Some superintendents of elementary and middle schools have even reported an increase in cases of self-mutilations and threats of suicide since the show was debuted.

               Suicide prevention experts warn that suicide often leads to more suicide, meaning “Someone else’s death by suicide can reinforce a vulnerable person’s motivation to die by suicide,” according to Professor Madelyn Gould of Columbia University.

               The National Association of School Psychologists feels that students who have suicidal thoughts should avoid the series entirely. In one scene of the show, a counselor tells a student, “If she wanted to end her life, we weren’t going to stop her,” which critics feel enforces the false belief that suicidality is completely unresponsive to intervention. Child and adolescent psychologist Dr. Miller is frustrated by the “gross negligence” of the show’s school counselor who fails to conduct a suicide risk-assessment when Hannah hints at suicide by saying, “I need everything to stop, people, life.” Miller goes on to say about the dramatic series, “It’s so upsetting to me on so many levels.”

Alanna Shingler Staff Reporter