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‘13 Reasons Why’ Edits Out Season 1's Graphic Suicide Scene

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

On Monday, after input from advocates and another study showing the suicide rate increased among young people after “13 Reasons Why” was released, Netflix and the show’s creator announced they edited out the main character’s graphic suicide scene from the Netflix drama’s first season.

“13 Reasons Why” follows a group of teenagers after their classmate, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) dies by suicide. Hannah leaves behind a series of tapes explaining the events prior to her death. Clay (Dylan Minnette) finds the tapes and grapples with the secrets Hannah reveals. Told as a series of flashbacks, the final episode of the first season ends with Hannah’s suicide.

Since it initially aired on Netflix in 2017, “13 Reasons Why” garnered mixed reactions about how it handled Hannah’s suicide. The choice to depict her suicide in graphic detail drew particular criticism. The show’s creators, including Brian Yorkey, writer Nic Sheff and fans defended the choice, saying the scene showed the reality of dying by suicide. It’s shock value, they said, encouraged people to have frank and open conversations about suicide.

Mighty contributor Alexandra Kerr said watching “13 Reasons Why” helped her open up about a previous suicide attempt in her article, “Watching ’13 Reasons Why’ Encouraged Me to Talk to My Husband About My Suicide Attempt.” She wrote:

For me, ’13 Reasons Why’ was crucial for this huge leap forward. It opened the door for me to share a deeply traumatic experience and helped me to start a dialogue I had previously failed to start for a decade — and for that I am truly thankful. I am also thankful the show helped my husband see the true face of mental health.

However, many other advocates in the mental health, suicide attempt survivor and suicide loss survivor communities said the show went too far — its decision to air a triggering suicide scene did more harm than good. “13 Reasons Why” was also criticized for oversimplifying the complexity of suicide without any mention of Hannah or the other teens in the series seeking help.

Mighty contributor Brianna Miedema explained in her article, “Why People With Mental Illness Need to Be Careful When Watching ’13 Reasons Why,’” how the show could be harmful to those with a history of mental health issues. She said:

The scene at the end of the series when you actually see Hannah die is the most dangerous scene to see as someone struggling with mental illness. It’s blunt and honest, and there’s nothing left out. You see everything. Before getting angry over this triggering scene, you need to understand this detail is actually pretty relevant to the show in order for your eyes to be opened to suicide. However, this ‘detail’ can easily send a recovering self-harmer into a relapse, so there is a positive and negative.

A study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry in April confirmed what previous studies found — the suicide rate among young people ages 10 to 17 increased following the release of “13 Reasons Why.” According to official statements on Twitter, it was this study and advocacy efforts from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention that led Netflix and creator Yorkey to agree to remove the suicide scene from the first season.

“It was our hope, in making 13 Reasons Why into a television show, to tell a story that would help young viewers feel seen and heard, and encourage empathy in all who viewed it, much as the best-selling book did before us,” Yorkey said in a statement posted on Twitter. He added:

Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in season one was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we ready to launch season three, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers.

The Hollywood Reporter reported the nearly three-minute suicide scene was removed from Netflix and the company will work to remove pirated copies that include the scene online.

Though a release date hasn’t been announced, the third season of “13 Reasons Why” is expected to air this fall.

Header image via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page

Originally published: July 16, 2019
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