Parents and mental health advocates are expressing concern over a popular new Netflix series about a teenaged girl who kills herself leaving behind tapes explaining why she did it. The series contains graphic scenes of sexual violence, self-harm, and the suicide.
Suicide among adolescents is a major concern in Canada. It is a leading cause of death for Canadians between 10 and 24 years old second only to road accidents. Canada’s youth suicide rate is the third highest in the industrialized world, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Australian advocates warn of possible ‘distressing reaction’
An Australian mental health organization has issued a warning about the series called 13 Reasons Why, citing concerns raised by schools, parents and young people across Australia. The 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.”
A call for conversation about suicide
CBC News reports that in Canada, “educators and mental health professionals have expressed concern the program could glorify suicide if taken out of context.” It quotes mental health professionals as saying “just watching a series about suicide isn’t inherently dangerous, but it needs to be combined with open and honest conversation.”
In fact, on its website, the Canadian Mental Health Association talks generally about suicide and says it is a myth that “talking about suicide will give a young person the idea, or permission, to consider suicide as a solution to their problem.”
‘A tradition of silence’ can harm, says association
It also notes people are often reluctant to talk about suicide due to stigma, guilt or shame and this “tradition of silence…prevents people from talking openly about the pain the feel or the help they need.”
That said, the association has not issued an opinion on whether viewing this series is a good or a bad thing. Controversy about it is likely to continue.
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