Netflix has removed a suicide scene from an episode of the first season of 13 Reasons Why, amid fears it increased the risk of teen suicide.
The controversial television show, based on the 2007 best-selling novel by Jay Asher, follows the story of Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette) after he discovers tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), who recently committed suicide.
In a distressing flashback scene in the final episode of the first season, Hannah is depicted slitting her wrists in her family bathtub – after which her mum (Kate Walsh) bursts through the door and discovers her.
The original scene lasted for nearly three minutes, with viewers watching Hannah’s distress as she cries in pain from a deep cut on her arm before ultimately succumbing to her injuries, gasping for air until her breathing slows.
In a statement published on social media yesterday, Netflix acknowledged that the show – which received polarising reviews for its often difficult-to-watch content – opened up conversations about mental health.
However, the streaming service went on to say they have to be ‘mindful’, writing:
We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help — often for the first time.
As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one.
An update on 13 Reasons Why
— Netflix US (@netflix) July 16, 2019
The scene has now been replaced by a new one, which features Hannah looking at herself in the mirror before it cuts to her parents’ reaction to her suicide. The scene will no longer depict her character taking a razor blade to her wrists, or the immediate aftermath, as per the Hollywood Reporter.
13 Reasons Why divided viewers over how issues such as mental health, rape, and suicide should be relayed to its (often young) audience. But the show’s controversy extended beyond even this, with research finding the Netflix show was associated with an increase in youth suicide following its release.
Earlier this year, research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found the show was linked to a 28.9 per cent increase in suicide rates among young people in the US aged 10-17, in the month following its release.
The show premiered on March 31, 2017; the number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by researchers.
Lisa Horowitz, PhD, a clinical scientist in the NIMH Intramural Research Program and the author of the study, emphasised that the results of this study point to the fact that young people are vulnerable with regards to what they see in the media.
13 Reasons Why is set to start its third season this year.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.
A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).