A new hit show on Netflix that is executively produced by actor/singer/Bieber’s ex Selena Gomez, has sparked a backlash from youth mental organisation Headspace for its portrayal of teenage suicide.
13 Reasons Why is a US series based on a novel of the same name by Jay Asher, and features Aussie actor Katherine Langford as the main character – a high school student who kills herself after a series of culminating failures, brought on by select individuals within her school.
The series has received mainly positive reviews from critics and audiences since launching on Netflix at the end of last month.
However, Headspace has issued a warning on 13 Reasons Why “following growing concerns raised by schools, parents and young people across Australia” about some of its content.
“It presents the viewer with very confronting and graphic messaging and imagery inclusive of suicide method and means,” the organisation said in a statement on its website.
“Since its debut both the national headspace School Support Program, which supports school communities in the aftermath of a suicide, and eheadspace, the national online and over-the-phone counselling service has received a growing numbers of calls and emails directly related to the program.
Kristen Douglas, national manager of Headspace School Support, said the show exposes viewers to risky suicide content and may lead to a distressing reaction by the viewer, particularly if the audience is children and young people.
“National and international research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion,” she said.
Head of eheadspace, Dr Steven Leicester, said clinicians working for the service had been dealing with a steady stream of concerned parents and young people since the show first aired.
“There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience – and on a young audience in particular,” he said.
Headspace School Support and eheadspace is urging school communities, parents, and mental health services to be aware of the dangers and risks associated for children and young people who have been exposed to content from 13 Reasons Why.
The national suicide media initiative, Mindframe, also has significant concerns and warnings related to this content, according to the Headspace website.