Netflix's 13 Reasons Why has been an instant hit since it premiered on March 31. Inspired by the bestselling young adult novel of the same title by Jay Asher, the teen drama revolves around the life (and the afterlife) of young Hannah Baker who leaves behind 13 audio recordings on cassette tapes explaining why she took her own life.
While the teen drama has its viewers, particularly teenagers, hooked with each episode, it also has school authorities and mental health experts seriously concerned.
Dangers And Risks
In Canada, several school districts have issued letters and online notices warning both students and parents against the negative effects of 13 Reasons Why.
"The B.C. Ministry of Education and many mental health organizations are highlighting concerns and providing guidance to school communities and parents to be aware of the dangers and risks associated with children and young people who have been exposed to the series," an official letter from the Vancouver School Board stated.
"For teens who are battling mental health issues, witnessing the end of a life as easily as the show portrayed it could help desensitize kids to this very serious matter," Alexa Curtis, the founder of nonprofit Media Impact and Navigation for Teens, wrote in her opinion article for Rolling Stone about the series.
Selena Gomez And Stars Back The Show
"I believed in the project for so long and I understood what the message was," popular singer and teen influencer, Selena Gomez, said in an interview.
"I just wanted it to come across in a way that kids would be frightened, but confused - in a way that they would talk about it because it's something that's happening all the time. So, I'm overwhelmed that it's doing as well as it's doing," Gomez, who also serves as the executive producer of the 13-episode Netflix series, continued.
Meanwhile, actress Kate Walsh, who plays the role of Hannah's mom, has aired her side regarding the controversy surrounding 13 Reasons Why and why she feels otherwise, going so far as to say that she thinks watching it should be mandatory viewing in schools.
The Truth About Teen Suicide
"Research shows that exposure to another person's suicide, or to graphic or sensationalized accounts of death, can be one of the many risk factors that youth struggling with mental health conditions cite as a reason they contemplate or attempt suicide," the National Association of School Psychologists explained in an official statement regarding the controversial TV series.
On the contrary, other experts, such as Eric Beeson, a licensed professional counselor at the Family Institute at Northwestern University, pointed out that it's quite impossible for a TV show to serve as a sole trigger for teen suicide.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young Americans age 10 to 34.