Netflix has axed a controversial scene from 13 Reasons Why, two years after it first aired.
The teen drama, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, tells the story of a young girl who leaves behind a series of 13 tapes detailing the reasons why she chose to end her life. The series premiered on Netflix in March 2017, with a second season released in May 2018. Although the show has received critical acclaim, it has also generated criticism, particularly with its second season, and raised questions regarding the show’s portrayal of suicide and how it might affect young people who watch it.
Earlier this year, a study suggested that suicide rates among young people increased after the release of the series. Now, Netflix has removed a particular scene from the show, which depicted the suicide of the lead character. Netflix said the decision to cut the three-minute sequence was made “on the advice of medical experts”.
Samaritans has said it “welcomed” the move decision and that it had been working with the streaming service’s UK team “to provide advice on the safe portrayal of suicide”.
“While covering difficult topics in drama can help to increase understanding and encourage people to seek help, it’s important this is done in a responsible way,” Lorna Fraser from the charity’s media advisory service told BBC News.
The third season of the show premieres later this year.
“No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other,” producer and creator Brian Yorkey said in a statement.
“We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers.”
13 Reasons Why: Study suggests suicide rate spiked after release of Netflix show
2nd May 2019
A new study has suggested that suicide rates among young people increased after the release of Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
The show, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, tells the story of a young girl who leaves behind a series of 13 tapes detailing the reasons why she chose to end her life. The series premiered on Netflix on March 31st 2017, with a second season released in May 2018. Although the show has received critical acclaim, it also generated criticism, particularly with its second season, and raised questions regarding the show’s portrayal of suicide and how it might affect young people who watch it.
To better understand the potential impact of 13 Reasons Why on suicide rates, researchers analysed annual and monthly data on deaths due to suicide sourced from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s web-based Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research. These data included information about the deaths of individuals between the ages of 10 and 64 that occurred between 1st January 2013, and 31st December 2017, a timespan that encompassed the period before and after the release of the first season.
The researchers examined whether the rates of suicide for the period after the release of 13 Reasons Why were greater than would be expected based on counts and trends observed in previous years. The findings of the study, supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry this week.
The researchers found that the rates of suicide for 10- to 17- year-olds were “significantly higher in the months of April, June, and December 2017” than were expected based on past data. This increase translated into an additional estimated 195 suicide deaths between 1st April 2017, and 31st December 2017. The observed suicide rate for March 2017 — the month prior to the release of 13 Reasons Why — was also higher than forecast. The researchers note that the show was highly promoted during the month of March, exposing audiences to the show’s premise and content through trailers. The researchers did not find any significant trends in people above the age of 18, and did not find any significant changes in homicide rates following the release of the show.
“The findings of this study add to a growing body of information suggesting that youth may be particularly sensitive to the way suicide is portrayed in popular entertainment and in the media,” says the NIH,. “This increasing recognition of entertainment and media influence has led a variety of groups, such as National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the World Health Organization, and reporting on suicide.org, to create best practices for talking about and portraying suicide on screen. These guidelines recommend, for example, that the entertainment media should avoid depicting the suicide method used. The entertainment media are also urged to convey the message that help is available and to include accurate information about how people can seek help.”
The study, it should be noted, used a quasi-experimental design, meaning that the researchers cannot make a causal link between the release of 13 Reasons Why and the observed changes in suicide rates. The researchers cannot, therefore, rule out the possibility that unmeasured events or other factors influenced suicide rates during this period.
“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” says study author Lisa Horowitz, Ph.D., M.P.H., a clinical scientist in the NIMH Intramural Research Program. “All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”
A third season of the Netflix series is currently in production and is expected to be released sometime this year.
“We’ve just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania,” a Netflix spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement, linking to other research that was published suggesting that those who had watched the entire second season saw “beneficial effects” and were less likely to purposely injure themselves.
“This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly,” added Netflix.
“The findings from this study should serve as a reminder to be mindful of the possible unintended impacts of the portrayal of suicide, and as a call to the entertainment industry and the media to use best practices when engaging with this topic,” concludes the NIH.
If you or someone you know needs help or is affect by the contents of this article, you can contact The Samaritans 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on 116 123. You can also find help and information on childline.org.uk, thecalmzone.net, mind.org.uk and studentsagainstdepression.org.