13 Reasons Why

[The following contains spoilers for the series 13 Reasons Why]

Essentially, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why is about the aftermath of a high school girl’s suicide, with the main character listening to a series of cassette tapes recorded by the girl—Hannah, played by Katherine Langford—about why she chose to do it. So, in the show’s final episode, it makes a point not to shy away from actually depicting the girl’s death onscreen. It opens with a disclaimer about the episode containing graphic content, and partway through, it shows Hannah going into the bathroom and cutting her wrists.

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Speaking with Entertainment Weekly, Jay Asher (the writer behind the book the show is based on) explained that the intention was to not shy away from her suicide and to “show it as horrific as it actually is.” That way, “you can’t watch it and feel like it’s glamorized in any way,” because it “looks and is painful” for Hannah. It’s a noble approach, but as the EW story points out, depictions of suicide can often act as a negative influence on people who are already at risk.

Dr. Christine Moutier, the chief medical officer for the American Foundation Of Suicide Prevention, told EW that a TV show depicting suicide could be more helpful if it shows someone recognizing and dealing with their risk factors, primarily by talking to people and recognizing that it’s okay to seek treatment. And, in the end, that seems to be what 13 Reasons Why is actually going for, since—even though it’s played against the whole cassette tape thing—the plot largely focuses on people recognizing the ways Hannah could’ve been helped and how to help other kids in similar situations.