The graphic and confronting depiction of suicide shown in the Netflix drama ’13 Reasons Why’ raises serious concerns about the potential harm such content can cause young people, The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) warns.
‘Suicide, suicidal ideation, self-harm and trauma are complex themes for young audiences to process and it is irresponsible to market such a show to young audiences who are a vulnerable population for mental ill health,’ RANZCP President, Professor Malcolm Hopwood said.
‘While public discussion on challenging themes such as suicide can help lessen damaging stigmas, graphic and detailed representations of the act are highly inappropriate and ill advised.
“These are sensitive issues which need to be handled with care not only because of the potential to disturb and traumatise young people but also the distress they may cause audience members who have personal experience of suicide among their families and friends.’
“Studies also show that sensational media reporting of a teenager’s suicide can play into the tendency of other teenagers to imitate this tragic act especially when the method of suicide is graphically portrayed.”
The RANZCP notes that under the current media codes of practice in Australia that news media outlets are only permitted to ‘broadcast reports of suicide or attempted suicide where there is an identifiable public interest to do so and will exclude any detailed description of the method used and any graphic details, and will not glamourize suicide in any way.
‘We would advocate for this same rule to be applied to the entertainment industry,’ Professor Hopwood said.
‘13 Reasons Why’ is a Netflix drama series based on a young adult novel of the same name. The show details the suicide of a teenage girl through cassette tapes she left behind for her friends. It is rated MA15+ on Netflix, and several of the 13 episodes are preceded by extra warnings for graphic content.
If you or someone you know is at risk or needs help please see our factsheet ‘helping a suicidal person’ or contact Headspace, Lifeline, Kids Helpline, or Beyond Blue.
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The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists is a membership organisation that prepares medical specialists in the field of psychiatry, supports and enhances clinical practice, advocates for people affected by mental illness and advises governments on mental health care. For information about our work, our members or our history, visit www.ranzcp.org.