“13 Reasons Why” Netflix Show is Concerning, Say Psychologists

The Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" has some mental-health experts concerned about the exposure of suicide to young or troubled people. Photo Credit: Netflix

Stephanie Carson
Public News Service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Suicide rates in Tennessee are on the increase across all age groups, just as a new Netflix series features a story line about a teenager who takes her life in the first episode.

The show “13 Reasons Why” is prompting numerous mental-health groups to express concerns about the series.

At the Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network, executive director Scott Ridgway says the detailed portrayal could ignite thoughts in impressionable young people.

“I think that we’re not planting it in their minds, that’s key, but if they had not made it so graphic, and it’s really more fictional,” he says. “It has a buy-in that people watch the first episode and go, ‘Oh, my goodness.'”

According to the most recent data, more than 1,000 people a year commit suicide in Tennessee, with more than 250 of those involving people under age 24.

Ridgway says the TSPN is advising against schools screening the series for students, or leading staff or class discussions.

In response to concerns, Netflix has added additional warnings to the show, including “viewer discretion advised” labels on the episodes that contain explicit material.

Ridgway says teens interested in watching the series should view it with a parent or guardian – to have an open dialogue after the show.

“We recommend parents to watch it with their children if their children choose to watch the series, and this way it gives an opportunity for that discussion afterward to let folks know that there are resources and support,” he explains.

Critics also take issue with the story line in the show that features a school counselor unable to help the lead suicidal character.

Ridgway says schools and community centers are equipped with professionals who would provide appropriate help to someone in need. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK or you can text TN for help to 741741.