Netflix series worries suicide prevention advocates

Some worry it might glamorize suicide for teens

Oregon Youthline manager Emily Moser discusses the issues raised by the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why." (KOIN)
Oregon Youthline manager Emily Moser discusses the issues raised by the Netflix series "13 Reasons Why." (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A popular Netflix original series is getting a lot of people to talk about bullying and teen suicide, but suicide prevention advocates are also worried it could create copycats.

In “13 Reasons Why,” a miniseries based on a young adult novel, high school student Hannah Baker leaves behind 13 tape recordings detailing why she committed suicide.

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The show has been a hit, but Oregon Youthline manager Emily Moser says it’s also somewhat troubling. She says the opening of the show sets an inappropriate tone, with a memorial at Hannah’s locker.

“When you memorialize or glamorize a death by suicide, potentially other young people, teenagers, look at that and tends to normalize this idea of death by suicide versus reaching out for help,” Moser said.

A person uses Netflix in Palo Alto, Calif. on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)

Moser was bothered that the show never mentioned mental illness, which is a factor in 90% of suicides. She thinks it makes it appear that suicide is a reasonable solution to problems like cyber bullying and other conflicts.

“80-85 percent of the time those issues are such that through talking, through getting the help you need, you get help you need,” Moser said.

At Youthline, the teen volunteers take 28-35 calls on an average shift, some of them from kids who are depressed, others talking about suicide. Moser said reaching out for help is the way to handle these feelings.

Moser and other suicide prevention advocates also said the graphic portrayal Hannah’s actual suicide was unnecessary and potentially harmful to people who are struggling.

She said the one positive thing about “13 Reasons Why” is that it does get a conversation started.

“It gives them the opportunity to talk about some of these complicated issues and open the door to create a safe atmosphere for your young person to talk to you as a parent,” Moser said.

A poser at Oregon Youthline. (KOIN)
A poser at Oregon Youthline. (KOIN)