What ’13 Reasons Why’ gets wrong about suicide

If it takes a village to raise a child then it takes one to kill a teenager, as well, or at least that is the premise of Netflix’s provocative new series, “13 Reasons Why,” based on Jay Asher’s 2007 book of the same name.

The show depicts the series of events that led to the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford).

Each of the 13 episodes follows Hannah’s classmate Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) as he attempts to understand Hannah’s death while listening to the tapes she narrated telling the stories of the 13 people she believes are responsible for her death.

This is not TV viewing for the faint of heart or any other parts of the soul for that matter.

“13 Reasons” has created a storm of controversy and incited outrage from numerous sides, including members of the Catholic community who claim that the series romanticizes suicide and does nothing to show the role mental illness plays when a person takes his or her own life

Quang Tran, a Jesuit priest with a background in suicide prevention counselling, says that though the show ‘’has good intentions, teenagers who are at risk should not watch without care and support, as it could be triggering.’’

Father Tran also finds the show’s use of Hannah’s posthumous narration as not giving adolescent viewers the proper perspective on the finality of suicide.

‘’The permanence of death must be emphasized for children who developmentally do not understand death,’’ Father Tran says. ‘’Even teens with a better understanding may not have the maturity to accept the reality of death’s effects.’’

What is intriguing is that while the series has created much hoopla since its release on March 31, the book, which was published for the young adult market a decade ago, never raised an eyebrow.

To be fair, the subject matter is much more common in the young adult book market, and so does not stand out nearly as much. But it also speaks to the reality of Netflix’s pervasiveness and a viewer’s ability to binge an entire series in under 24 hours, leading to an amplification of intensity in a culture with an already voracious appetite for consuming all forms of media all the time. Continue reading

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