The suicide scene in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has got mixed reactions. It is extremely rare to depict such a graphic death scene in a TV series. The makers of the show advised viewer discretion for the scene. Before the episode, a warning message tells viewers that the episode contains “disturbing” scenes. Soon, it becomes clear why the viewers are warned. Hannah Baker, played by Katherine Langford, goes to the bathroom, slits her wrists and bleeds to death. Moreover, her lifeless body is discovered by none other than her parents.
Jay Asher, the author of the 2007 novel the show is based on, said it had to be done that way. The Netflix adaptation had to be “as horrific as” the actual incident. According to Asher, the suicide should not have been glamorized by any means. It should have looked painful. Even screenwriter Brian Yorkey believes the same.
Yorkey, one of the creators of the show, said that makers had worked really hard not to turn out to be gratuitous. However, they did want the show to be “painful to watch,” as there was nothing worthwhile about killing yourself, he said. Netflix has made a short documentary, Beyond the Reasons, where the cast and crew talks about various aspects of the show, such as bullying, sexual assault and suicide.
Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has Katherine Langford playing Hannah’s character. Yet, she does not want people to follow the protagonist and go the path of killing yourself. She asked people to reach out and call a hotline if required. Even if somebody feels like Hannah in the show and is unable to talk about the issues to friends or parents, they can talk about it anonymously. Langford asks them to talk to anybody, as it gets easier when you talk about it.
“Just know that there’s life beyond what you’re feeling at the moment,” Entertainment Weekly quoted Langford as saying in Beyond the Reasons. “I promise it will get better. There’s an entire future full of incredible things waiting for you. And if you go, you don’t get to see it.”
No matter what 13 Reasons Why makers say, it definitely gets risky when suicide is graphically portrayed on screen. Even if it is not graphic, it remains dangerous for those who are already experiencing negative feelings inside. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the risk of suicide gets higher when there is an explicit description of suicide methods in a story.
“Covering suicide carefully, even briefly, can change public misperceptions and correct myths, which can encourage those who are vulnerable or at risk to seek help.”
Dr. Christine Moutier from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention says it is OK to show a character struggling with mental health, bullying, and other issues. Moutier finds nothing wrong in depicting characters who are suicidal. However, it is important to show that they are working on their fears.
Moutier has not seen 13 Reasons Why yet. But, the chief medical officer believes it is important to “raise the volume on” suicide issues.
“So it’s not that portrayals are all bad,” Moutier said. “It’s the way that it’s done and that it needs to be with a prevention message and a message of hope, something that can inspire others to work through life’s struggles whether they’re way upstream from actually being in a crisis or even when it’s at the moment of suicidal crisis.”
Meanwhile, 13 Reasons Why continues to get rave reviews from both critics and viewers. The Netflix series has become one of the highest rated TV shows in recent times.
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