The portrayal of suicide in the media was taboo for many decades, with the thinking that publicising it was potentially glorifying it – now in 2018, with the recent release of Netflix’s second season of 13 Reason’s Why – mental health organisations, schools and parents are questioning the appropriateness of TV content openly depicting teen suicide.
Schools across Australia sent letters to parents ahead of the second season release last week, promoting awareness of the graphic and confronting content of the TV show and the need to have open conversations with their teens about whether they should watch it and about what they were watching.
With the reaction to season one’s provocative portrayal of teen suicide, bullying and sexual assault, mental health agency headspace in Australia teamed with Netflix to create warnings and messages of available support to teen viewers before and at the end of each episode of season two.
Headspace said its collaboration with Netflix was aimed at making informative resources available to teens, parents and schools.
Headspace clinical practice head Vikki Ryall said viewer reactions to the show would vary depending on individual circumstances at the time.
“No two people will take exactly the same meaning or understanding out of the same episode,” Ms Ryall said.
“By providing young people with tips on how to watch the show safely and ensuring they know how to seek help we can ensure distressed viewers can be supported,” she added.
Headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan said 13 Reasons Why highlighted tough topics for teens and attempted to bring them into mainstream discussions.
“TV shows can provide parents and schools the opportunity to have conversations with young people about important issues which is great, however, there is the potential for these conversations to do more harm than good,” Mr Trethowan said.
“Our aim is to ensure young people, parents and schools are supported and equipped to have constructive conversations about the themes depicted in the show,” he said.