in

Child psychologists respond to ’13 Reasons Why’ portrayal of suicide

The fictional story of high schooler Hannah Baker and her suicide will continue in the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” The streaming service renewed the controversial show for a third season this week despite national backlash.

The announcement for a third season comes less than a month after the second season premiered on May 18.

Nielsen has begun rating streaming audiences by the minute and clocked the second season of 13 Reasons Why at a 2.6 million minute audience in the U.S. during the first three days after the season went live. The first episode of the season pulled in 6 million viewers in three days, according to Nielsen.

While these numbers are low in comparison to Netflix powerhouses like “Stranger Things,” which averaged 15.8 million viewers for its second season debut episode, they are still substantial to healthcare professionals like Melissa Butler, a pediatric psychologist at Riley Children’s Health.

Report: Anthony Bourdain, host of CNN’s ‘Parts Unknown,’ commits suicide

Nationally: Suicide rates have risen 30% in the U.S. since 1999, CDC says

Locally: Indiana ranks 28th in child well-being

Butler said she hasn’t watched the second season of “13 Reasons Why” yet, but she and her colleagues on the Simon Skjodt and Adolescent Behavioral Unit shared emails and passed out handouts from the “13 Reasons Why” Toolkit put together by the group Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

From the beginning, “13 Reasons Why” caused viewers, advocates and health care professionals to debate if depictions of suicide promote awareness or glamorization of teen suicide.

Patients who had attempted or thought about suicide who told Butler their favorite show was “13 Reasons Why” and that the characters resonated with them. Butler said she tells patients that while this type of show may feel relatable, it’s not going to be a healthy option for them.

“‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ comes at great risk, especially for teens who are already struggling,” Butler said. “This is not a documentary or an after school special that is trying to promote awareness. This is something that is maximizing shock value and has vivid imagery that can be triggering.”

After the first season showed a graphic three minute scene of the lead character’s suicide, researchers used Google search data to track trends relating to the show and self-harm practices.

The phrase “how to commit suicide” rose 26 percent above the expected rate.

However, searches for “suicide prevention” also increased by 23 percent after the premiere. The paper, published in the Journal of American Medical Association, also found suicide hotline searches rose 21 percent.

The shock value, gory details and mysterious nature of Hannah Baker’s suicide is what kept viewers binging, but it’s also where Butler draws the line between awareness and glamorizing self-harm.

“13 Reasons Why” centers around Baker leaving messages for her classmates and features flashbacks to her in both seasons. This creates a dangerous portrayal that suicide is not final, Butler said.

Baker’s presence in the show despite her death has inspired some of Butler’s patients to post on social media about their suicidal thoughts as a way for them to be immortalized as well.

Netflix executives have made steps to do their part in responsible programming by adding a PSA that autoplays before each season and hosting a 13reasonswhy.info website with advocacy groups, crisis line phone numbers and discussion guides featuring cast members.

 

While she can appreciate Netflix’s attempt to respond to criticism and be proactive, Butler said the streaming services’ depiction of suicide still has some major gaps.

“There is this portrayal in season one that talking to adults or going to a counselor is not going to help,” Butler said. “That is a big issue with this media portrayal and we could have really modeled [seeking help] with this show, but it probably wouldn’t have been as good TV.”

In March, Netflix commissioned Northwestern University’s multinational study with more than 5,000 young adults, teens and parents who watched “13 Reasons Why.”

The findings supported Netflix’s stance that the show and the follow-up “Beyond the Reasons” episode was helping breakdown mental health stigma and opening up dialogue.

The study states, “The majority (70 percent) of parents who watched “Beyond the Reasons” wanted more resources, including having mental health professionals provide resources at the end of difficult episodes (62 percent), and the cast coming out of character to provide resources at the end of specific episodes (65 percent).”

After the announcement of the third installment of “13 Reasons Why,” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings addressed the controversy during a shareholders meeting, as reported by Deadline.

“’13 Reasons Why’ has been enormously popular and successful,” Hastings said. “It’s engaging content. It is controversial. But nobody has to watch it.”

The Parents Television Council has started an online petition asking that “13 Reasons Why” immediately stop distribution.

The petition also asks that Netflix implement a pricing structure that allows customers to opt-out of receiving and paying for “sexually explicit, graphically violent and harshly profane programming.”

“The company already potentially has the blood of children on their hands from keeping this series – with its graphic suicide scene, its sodomization of a teen boy and a potential school shooting, among other adult content – on its platform for children to view,” PTC President Tim Winter said in a Source

13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford dazzles in an ivory trouser suit and David Bowie T-shirt as she steps out in Los Angeles!

This Advice Is So Bad That It Is Hilarious