“13 Reasons Why” Impacts its Audience, but not in a Good Way

“13 Reasons Why” Controversy:

When the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” was released in March of this year, it quickly gained attention. The drama depicts a 17-year old girl who dies by suicide, leaving behind audio tapes explaining why she decided to end her own life. It’s graphic depiction of self-harm, rape and suicide led Netflix to add advisory warnings to its episodes. Mental health professionals and educators, such as school psychologists, grew concerned about the impact of the series on the students. The superintendent of Palm Beach County Florida schools told parents that their schools saw an increase in self-harm and suicidal behaviors, some of which have been linked to the series.

“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.” -National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) Statement regarding series

One study found that the series release corresponded with 900,000-1,500,000 more suicide-related searches in the United States. Such searches included: “how to commit suicide,” (26% increase), “commit suicide,” (18% increase), and “how to kill yourself,” (9% increase). With such concerns comes the need to change how we discuss sensitive topics, such as suicidal ideation and self-harm.

#130ReasonsWhyNot Suicide Campaign:

In response to “13 Reasons Why,” Hope Xchange launched a daily social media campaign, #130ReasonsWhyNot, to share 130 reasons why not to take your own life. The organization saw the impact of the show, how it triggered some viewers and was even linked to “copy-cat,” suicides. Reasons why not include: “You are worth more than you think,” “Laughter,” and “Meeting Your Soulmate.”

My #130ReasonsWhyNot:

I loved the simplicity of the suicide prevention campaign, so, for the past 130 days, I have been doing my own #130ReasonsWhyNot campaign on my personal social media. Each day, I would post a picture with another reason that life is worth living. Sometimes, it was something small–”Ending a great book,” Day 81–and sometimes it was something much bigger–”True Love,” Day 50. I hope that efforts like this will get people talking about sensitive topics, such as depression and suicide, in a more honest and open manner. I want anyone who has days during which they can’t think of a “reason why not,” to reach out and get the help they deserve. Suicide may be scary, but talking about it doesn’t have to be–let’s start the conversation. What is your reason why not?



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