Netflix will strengthen the advisory warnings for its controversial teen drama 13 Reasons Why, Variety reports. The additional messaging comes amidst concerns from educators and mental health experts over youth at-risk behaviour linked to the show's depictions of suicide, depression, bullying and sexual assault.
13 Reasons Why is already rated TV-MA and includes graphic content warnings before two episodes. The changes will add a viewer warning card before the show's first episode, while Netflix has also promised to strengthen "the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter." The streaming service will also shore up the show's accompanying website, 13ReasonsWhy.info, which launched alongside the series and contains information regarding suicide prevention and mental health issues.
"There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why," Netflix said in a statement. "While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories."
Based on Jay Asher's 2007 young adult novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who takes her own life and leaves behind cassette tapes addressing the 13 people she says contributed to her decision to take her own life.
In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Selena Gomez, a producer on 13 Reasons Why, addressed the show's controversial subject matter, but also the desire to stay true to Asher's "beautifully tragic, complicated yet suspenseful story." "We wanted to do it justice and, yeah, [the backlash is] going to come no matter what," she said. "It's not an easy subject to talk about, but I'm very fortunate with how it's doing and I’m overwhelmed, very proud of it."
Per The Washington Post, the show has raised concerns among parents, teachers and administrators at schools in several states. For instance, a superintendent in Palm Beach, Florida sent a letter home saying that school personnel had seen a rise in at-risk behaviour, including self-mutilation and threats of suicide, and that some students "have articulated associations of their at-risk behaviour to the 13 Reasons Why Netflix series."
The National Association of School Psychologists echoed this concern in a letter sent out to school mental health professionals across the country. The letter was reportedly the first the organisation has sent in response to a television show. A spokeswoman, Kathy Cowan, said, "Across the suicide prevention communities and experts, there is concern in the way that the suicide is portrayed and the buildup to the suicide … could trigger suicide contagion or copycat behaviour."