'13 Reasons Why' Receives New Trigger Warnings After Backlash

By Victoria Kim 05/03/17

Mental health professionals and school officials are concerned about the graphic nature of the show.

Image: 
Hannah Baker from "13 Reasons Why"
Hannah Baker from "13 Reasons Why" Photo via YouTube

Netflix has updated the trigger warnings that appear on its controversial new series, 13 Reasons Why, in response to some major backlash from people who say the show glamorizes teen suicide.

In a statement to BuzzFeed, Netflix said that starting as early as this week, a new warning will appear at the beginning of the first episode “as an extra precaution for those about to start the series.” Netflix has also “strengthened the messaging” on the existing trigger warnings that appear before episodes that show graphic scenes depicting suicide and sexual assault.

In the show, high school student Hannah Baker decides to kill herself after enduring bullying, harassment, and sexual assault. She makes 13 audio tapes and has a proxy deliver them to 13 people who played a role in her decision to end her life.

Netflix tried to create a context for the show with a short behind-the-scenes documentary Beyond the Reasons, in which the actors and author Jay Asher, whose book the show is based on, discuss the thought behind the show and why they chose not to shy away from difficult scenes.

The idea was to open up the conversation about teen depression and suicide. “We worked very hard not to be gratuitous, but we did want it to be painful to watch because we wanted to be very clear that there is nothing … worthwhile about suicide,” said executive producer Brian Yorkey. 

But the graphic nature of the show shocked enough people to elicit this response from Netflix.

This week, as reported by The Washington Post, the National Association of School Psychologists sent a memo to school mental health professionals across the U.S. to prime them on how to talk about the show with students. 

Some school officials are concerned that the show will produce a “contagion effect” among students already at risk of depression or self-harm. 

The superintendent of Palm Beach County schools in Florida claimed that threats of suicide and self-harm among students have gone up as a result of the show.

“It’s important for the viewers to see that there is often a lot of collateral damage when someone dies and the person contemplating suicide might not realize how much their death will affect people that they love and that they didn’t want to hurt,” said Dr. Rona Hu, a psychiatrist at the Stanford University School of Medicine who was featured on Beyond the Reasons.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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