Opinion: ‘13 Reasons Why,’ this is your tape

Netflix series glorifies teenage death

Lukas Levin

As ‘13 Reasons Why’ gains increasing popularity amongst teenagers, chances of self-harm and danger for suicidal teens develop.

‘13 Reasons Why,’ a Netflix original released March 31, highlights a high school teenager and her struggles leading to her suicide. The show was based on a novel of the same name by author Jay Asher. Despite the show’s popularity, viewers should recognize the dangers of putting the topic of suicide in major media outlets.

According to Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse World Health Organization’s “Preventing Suicide A Resource for Media Professionals,” ‘13 Reasons Why’ breaks almost all of these rules, including not sensationalizing or showing the suicide. This show has a huge influence on teenagers, solely based on its media presence. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, suicide is the second leading cause of death in early teenagers and adults, having a show broadcasting controversial topics such as rape and suicide in very explicit ways to teens, who are impressionable, should have higher accountability than a trigger warning.

The show added warnings to address the recent outpour of disappointment from suicide prevention specialists. However, it brings up the question of whether or not a simple warning will actually prevent suicide and teen death if the content is still shown. I believe in freedom of speech and freedom to express art and film, yet, I do not believe in yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded movie theatre. It may be a harsh analogy, but when Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) feels the need to release a list of talking points for teens who may feel suicidal because of what they viewed in the show, it may indicate something isn’t being handled correctly with the show.

I talked to Park’s principal Scott Meyers about the show to understand how administration perceives the issue ‘13 Reasons Why’ generates. Meyers said from what he has seen, he believes the show’s main focus is to entertain more than it educates, which creates issues, although Meyers said he hopes creators were trying to be informative.

“From what I’ve seen, which a small amount, I think its main focus is to entertain,” Meyers said.  “I think the intentions, I am hoping, of the creators is to say ‘let’s make sure people hear about this.’ Do I think it is the best or most accurate depiction? I would say based on how it was designed and the purpose it was designed for, it probably wouldn’t hit that target.”