Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ sparks debate on teenage suicide

13 Reasons Why” starts with the death by suicide of a teenager named Hannah. The basis is a series of recordings the girl left behind explaining her reasons, 13 in all, for taking her own life. Ever since the series dropped on Netflix, it has started a debate concerning teenage suicide and whether the series glamorizes the subject.

NBC News notes that teen mental health professionals are worried that “13 Reasons Why” may be more hurtful than helpful for young people who watch the series. One aspect of the show suggests that Hannah kills herself because of a number of external causes, In fact, most mental health professionals maintain that suicides are the result of underlying issues, such as depression or lack of self-esteem, for which events such as a breakup are just the trigger. Children who are better equipped to deal with adversity are less likely to kill themselves.

Experts in the cause and prevention of teenage suicide are also afraid that the series can be viewed as an extended revenge fantasy. A number of people did terrible things to Hannah. She got back at them by killing herself, an act that plays out in the last episode in graphic detail. The fact that many people are binge watching the series makes things worse. The series may prove to be a triggering mechanism for young people dealing with suicidal thoughts.

One of the problems is that in the view of mental health professionals NBC interviewed, “13 Reasons Why” is not very realistic in depicting the cause and aftermath of teenage suicide. The JED Foundation and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education or SAVE have joined forces to create a list called “13 Talking Points” for parents and young people to discuss while watching the series together.

ABC News is reporting that some schools are sending letters to parents warning them of the possible effects of “13 Reasons Why” on their children. There is not much that parents or anyone else can do to stop their children from viewing the series. Because of the nature of live streaming, anyone can see it on their laptops and smartphones.

Despite the reservations they have about the show, mental health and suicide prevention experts find one saving grace about “13 Reasons Why.” The series has started a conversation about teen suicide, which is no small thing, since suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people.