Call for young people to seek help following 13 Reasons Why's portrayal of suicide

SENSITIVE: Perth actress Katherine Langford stars as the central character in controversial series 13 Reasons Why. Picture: NETFLIX
SENSITIVE: Perth actress Katherine Langford stars as the central character in controversial series 13 Reasons Why. Picture: NETFLIX

Related: headspace worried about Netflix series

YOUNG people are being urged to seek out help and information as concerns surround an online television series’ portrayal of suicide.

This week, leading youth mental health organisation headspace issued a warning about how the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why treated the issue, particularly given the inclusion of a graphic scene depicting the suicide of a teenage girl.

Hunter Institute of Mental Health director Jaelea Skehan urged parents and guardians to be aware of what their children were watching, and have conversations with them about such issues if they were watching the series.

The series raised several concerns for her, she said, including the presentation of the impact on others as a “sub-theme”, inaccurate messages around the causes of suicide, and the lack of help-seeking by characters.

Ms Skehan said it was important young people knew where to access accurate information about suicide, how to seek help and how to support a loved one, referring to such organisations as headspace, Kids Helpline, ReachOut.com, Lifeline and beyondblue.

“I’d also recommend that anyone who is going through a difficult time or those that have been impacted by suicide may want to think about whether a series like this is good for their well-being,” she said.

Some local viewers shared concerns about the series.

One woman said on social media that it presented a dramatised view that did not reflect the reality of how it felt to be affected by suicide, and expressed concern that it would not help those in distress. Another said his mental illness worsened after watching it.

But many others said that while the series made for confronting and upsetting viewing, they felt it shone light on important issues affecting young people, including bullying, and some said it had opened up discussion on these issues

If you are aged 12 to 25 and need information or help, call headspace on 1800 650 890 or visit a centre. If you are in need of immediate assistance, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.