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The Fallout from 13 Reasons Why: Intense Debate and a Promise for Season 2!!!

By Jenna Sundel and Ekaterina Zelenin

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When 13 Reasons Why first came out, it seemed like just another popular young adult book getting a television adaptation. However,  it’s realistically graphic portrayal of suicide, rape, and bullying sparked a major debate between parents, students, teachers, and counselors. Essentially, a new question began going around as to whether or not the controversial show should be watched.

One of the primary defenses against viewing the series is that it can harm those who are already at a vulnerable state. The grotesque visuals of 13 Reasons Why give more than the audience can chew, leaving many unable to digest the information in a mentally positive direction. The show has also been accused of glorifying suicide, which can encourage  desperate adolescents to commit the same act. While these effects are very serious, there are positive effects of watching the series. As the show becomes more and more popular, its lasting effects have only just begun to come into light.

According to an article on written in defense of the show, “The Netflix-produced teen drama has been criticized by parents and mental health professionals because of the way it portrays teen suicide.” Although, the article tries to counter this issue with claims that the show has a realistic representation, many therapists believe that this “realistic” representation does not highlight the series as beneficial for the minds of its viewers.

Already many principals and counselors are seeing a sudden increase in bullying and self-harm cases. As seen on Washington Post, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert M. Avossa “texted that officials at schools in his district have learned about at least a dozen episodes over a brief period involving young people who have either harmed themselves or threatened to do so, and cited the show when discussing their behavior.” The show’s boost in attention has garnered it enormous popularity, and in doing so, a wide audience range. As seen with most fads, students, especially in the smaller grades, are easily influenced by ongoing trends. A common concern with a series like 13 Reasons Why is a fear that students could become manipulated not only a mental level, but a psychological one as well. Using the characters and the story as inspirations to their own lives, students who are already depressed could potentially endanger themselves. This is why schools strongly urge parental supervision over the content of the show.   

Avossa himself stated that, ‘As a father of a teenager and tween, I am very concerned about a dangerous trend we have observed in our schools in recent days. School District personnel have observed an increase in youth at-risk behavior at the elementary and middle school levels to include self-mutilation, threats of suicide, and multiple Baker Act incidents.’” Avossa believes that the show has done more harm than good, and that it should be strictly monitored.

A writer from, Kaitlyn Watkins explains that studies from the suicide surveilling site, Jason Foundation have revealed that “more than 5,240 young people in grades 7-12 attempt to commit suicide every day.” Naturally, parents and experts become concerned as “13 Reasons Why offers an almost step-by-step instruction manual to how to commit suicide. Teenagers and children often internalize what they watch and read. If those who watch the show believe that suicide is an easy way out, it could make it more likely for some to want to commit suicide instead of seeking help” Watkins stated.

Despite the criticism, many opposing individuals have shown evidence countering the possible dangers exhibited by the series. For starters the series has put in a warning for the viewers prior to the start of its episodes about the mature content. The show clarifies with the TV-MA rating that students in elementary and early years of middle school should not watch the show. Furthermore, at the end of the series, 13 Reasons Why displays the Suicide Hotline number for any viewer feeling distraught. Providing all of the qualifications and restrictions that any average movie or tv-show does, 13 Reasons Why follows all of the necessary censorship guidelines.

If parents are still concerned over the show’s long lasting impacts, some experts have recommended that one way to stop this internalization is to discuss the show with family members or to watch the half hour at the end where the topics of the show are presented with greater depth. Despite the negativity surrounded around the show, it does raise awareness of mental illness and the drastic aftermath of suicide.

The topics are meant to bring controversial issues to the forefront. They show students what could be happening around them everyday. Some argue that the “inaccurate portrayal of mental illness”  is either more realistic than people realize or dramatized to get the point across.

Many adults find it easier to simply censor the show because the show, “portrays many topics that seem to make many adults uncomfortable: rape, bullying, teen death by suicide” according to social worker Haley Elizabeth Roberts.

The show also teaches the important lesson that all actions and words matter and can affect anyone around you. It makes “careless” teens more conscious. It also can teach teens the signs of mental illness and make them more aware of the classmates or even close friends that are displaying signs. By watching the series, a person can help to save a life and prevent a real life occurrence of 13 Reasons Why.


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The Fallout from 13 Reasons Why: Intense Debate and a Promise for Season 2!!!