Could Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ Spur Copycat Suicides? Experts Weigh In

(WWJ) This TV show is having an impact … and some would say it’s for the wrong reasons.

The acclaimed Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” features a main storyline about a teenage girl’s suicide, with the resulting mystery about why it happened being pursued by a friend throughout the series. She leaves messages for everyone who could be responsible for her death.

It’s riveting television, some say. But educators and mental health professionals are concerned about its impact on students with real-life personal issues.

Hanna Cassise chairs Oakland County’s Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force and said she”s concerned that there is no hotline number at the end of the episodes.

“If someone’s watching it and they do get triggered, or they do feel like they need to talk to someone, they need to have the information right there,” she said.

Many schools are sending letters home warning parents about the TV show, Cassise said, urging parents and teens to seek help if they need it. In Birmingham, where staffers say they’re hearing “chatter” about the series in the hallways, counselors are on hand to answer any questions.

For her part, Cassise is worried about the glorification of teen suicide and also about anything that sends the message that suicide makes a great revenge.

And then there’s the question of copycats.

“I can’t say definitely we’ll see no copycats,” psychologist Joe Young told WWJ’s Sandra McNeill. “We’re in a delicate balance about not romanticizing teen suicide, which I don’t think happens, and on the other hand not talking about the issue.

“I come out on the side that we need to bring it out in the schools, we need to have a robust discussion, we can’t stigmatize.”

Young added he believes it does more good than harm by bringing forward a topic that’s usually tough for parents to address … until it’s sometimes too late.

Netflix is adding a new trigger warning — this one at the beginning of the series before the first episode. It will appear this week, the company said.

“While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories,” Netflix said in a statement published by Variety. “We will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter.”

The warning before one episode reads, “The following episode contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing and/or may not be suitable for younger audiences, including graphic depictions of rape and sexual assault. Viewer discretion is advised.”

Another reads the same way, with “violence and suicide” instead of “rape and sexual assault.”

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