Why people are saying the Netflix hit '13 Reasons Why' glorifies suicide and is 'dangerous'

The Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” follows high-school student Clay Jensen and his classmate Hannah Baker, who commited suicide. She leaves behind cassette tapes that explain 13 reasons she says she took her own life. Each tape is made for someone who she felt was responsible for her suicide in some way. Each episode focuses on one of the tapes. 

Netflix released all the episodes of the show on March 31, 2017. And ever since, it’s gotten more and more popular, but in some cases for all the wrong reasons. It’s now facing major controversy.

Many mental-health experts, concerned parents, and teachers are saying that it glorifies suicide, and could be a dangerous lesson for teens who could be going through the same things as Hannah. 

Here’s how the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” became a hit among teens and why experts are calling it “harmful”:

It's based on the 2007 novel 'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher.

Beth Dubber/Netflix
Dylan Minnette stars on '13 Reasons Why.'

It got so popular so fast that it's probably getting a second season.


The show is about a teenager, Hannah Baker, who kills herself.


Before taking her own life, she leaves audiotapes for people she believes are responsible. The tapes are an act of revenge, and part justification of her fatal decision.

The show gained an immediate following on Netflix, especially from teens.


But mental-health specialists have expressed concern that the messages the show sends about suicide are 'dangerous.'


They're saying, along with many others on the internet, that the show delivers an extremely problematic take on suicide.

Kristen Douglas, a spokesperson for Australian youth mental-health organisation Headspace, told BuzzFeed that while '13 Reasons Why' 'is raising a really important issue, it's doing it in a really harmful way.'

Source: Washington Post, Vox

Experts, parents, and teachers agree that the show and its premise glorify suicide, not putting in proper context a character's misguided rationalization for suicide. And since teens have a high rate of suicidal thoughts, many question whether this show should've been made at all.


According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people ages 10-14, and the second among people ages 15-34 years. And in 2013, 17.0% of students in grades 9-12 seriously considered attempting suicide.

Source: The New York Times

But some disagree, saying '13 Reasons' has 'artistic merit.'


Some critics admire the show for taking the huge risks that it does. Selena Gomez, one of the show's coproducers, told the Associated Press: 'We stayed very true to the book and that's initially what Jay Asher created was a beautifully tragic, complicated yet suspenseful story and I think that's what we wanted to do.'

Source: Vox

There's also extremely graphic content in the show involving sexual assault and suicide. The creators of the show call the violent scene depicting Hannah's suicide 'necessary.'


Source: Vanity Fair

A school in Canada banned all references to the show completely, and some schools have had to issue statements warning parents about the material.


Source: New York Times

The National Association of School Psychologists has advised teenagers who have or have ever had suicidal thoughts to avoid '13 Reasons Why.'


The group also recommends that any teenager who wants to watch the show should do it with a parent who can make it clear that suicide is not a solution.

Actress Shannon Purser (Barb from'Stranger Things') issued a warning that people who've experienced depression, suicidal thoughts, or sexual assault should not watch the show.

It isn't until episode nine that a trigger warning appears on the show to caution viewers about what they will see.


As of right now, episodes 12 and 13 are the only others with the same warning.

After getting a storm of criticism, Netflix released this statement on May 1. The streaming service will be adding additional trigger warnings to the show.


'While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting an important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories. Currently, the episodes that carry graphic content are identified as such and the series overall carries a TV-MA rating. Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter, including 13ReasonsWhy.info -- a global resource center that provides information about professional organisations that support help around the serious matters addressed in the show.'

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.