13 Reasons Why is the most buzzed-about teen drama on the block. Yet while the Netflix series has been praised for its depictions of sexual assault, not everyone is thrilled with how the show tackles the touchy subject of suicide.
13 Reasons Why has received some backlash for showing teenager Hannah (Katherine Langford) taking her own life, a move which some mental health organisations believe could be triggering for those who are battling suicidal thoughts. Producers on the show have defended the decision, stating the intention was not to glamorise suicide, but to instead illustrate how horrific an act it is.
Aislinn Paul, who portrayed Clare Edwards on the long-running teen soap Degrassi — itself celebrated for painting realistic depictions of teen life — stated that she believed that 13 Reasons Why was more harmful than helpful. In a series of tweets, Paul wrote:
"I can't get it out of my mind so I have to say, I think 13 Reasons Why discusses teen suicide & depression in an unhelpful & unhealthy way."
"If you're struggling and this show helped you somehow, that's great and I would never want to take that away from you."
"But if it made you feel worse, misunderstood, isolated, or triggered in any way, please reach out for help! @KidsHelpPhone: 1(800) 668-6868"
During her time on Degrassi, Paul's character was faced with the suicide of a classmate. Degrassi made it clear that Cam (Dylan Everett) died by suicide, but was careful never to mention how or show his body. In an interview with Refinery29, executive producer Stephen Stohn spoke about the show's struggles to get a plotline about suicide right:
"The topic that was the most difficult and took us years and years to deal with was [suicide]. [Teens] do commit suicide, it is a story that needs to be dealt with. How do you do it in the right way with the right character? ...Can you do it in a way that doesn’t glamorise [suicide] at all, that actually says ‘Not a good idea,’ without being preachy? It’s very difficult to get it into a story. It took an actor like Dylan [Everett, who played Cam] who was really, really good... I think it was 38 episodes he was in, and it was in the 38th episode [Cam died by] suicide. Of course, we never showed the actual suicide, we just showed [Eli, the student who found Cam's body's] reaction."
It's clear that suicide is a difficult topic to tackle — and that people have different ideas of what a "right depiction" of the topic is.
If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Suicide Crisis Line at 1-800-784-2433.