13 Reasons Why, the American television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix, continues to earn stellar ratings and is already on top of the most tweeted programs of 2017. The show revolves around Clay Jensen’s classmate Hannah Baker’s suicide. Clay finds a package on his doorstep two weeks later containing thirteen videotapes made by Hannah. The videotapes explain the thirteen reasons behind her suicide. Clay is shocked to know he is one of them and is desperate to find out how he fits in.
13 Reasons Why glorifies suicide, warn experts
While the show is a great adaptation of the novel and portrays the events in a way that’s more relatable to the current generation, several mental health experts are beginning to feel that the show glorifies suicide and adversely affects the mental health of kids. There’s a disturbing scene that shows Hannah’s suicide. Add to that the events and the story that explain the possible reasons for suicide, imagery that can be considered as harmful to young children and you have a show that is just an extended revenge fantasy.
“Sequences of terrible things happen to Hannah, and we don’t get a feel for her internalization until she kills herself. None of that stuff is made clear because it’s focused on the horrible things people have done to her. The whole thing is an extended revenge fantasy” Dr. Victor Schwartz, Medical Director of JED Foudation told NBC News.
Schwartz feels that the show’s premise projecting other people are to be blamed for Hannah’s suicide is a failure on the part of the show. Citing statistics that college students kill themselves within just two weeks of a breakup, he believes that there is always an underlying issue that drives youngsters towards taking the drastic step and not necessarily the breakup itself.
Other experts also expressed concern over how the show portrays Hannah’s death –
“Netflix isn’t going to pull it and kids are watching it, and they’re binge watching it without anyone helping them process it. We feel it was done irresponsibly and we don’t agree with many portrayals including of Hannah’s death, memorialization, and placing blame on others. I cringed when I watched the school counselor scene. As a mental health professional and someone who works with kids, it’s cringe-inducing, but it was scripted that way and kids need to know that” says Phyllis Alongi, Clinical Director, Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide.
Suicide prevention centers and mental health experts have come together through JED and SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) to bring up a list of 13 talking points for young adults and parents. They believe these 13 points must be discussed by parents with their kids before they watch the series.
The show has also taken a detour from the novel. The novel was released a good 10 years ago – in 2007 – and a lot has changed since then. The Netflix adaptation of the book has been tweaked to include present-day technologies. For example, in the show, ideas about Hannah get spread around because of a photo. This is clearly different from the book, because back then nobody used cameras to take pics/selfies the way we do today.
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