'13 Reasons Why' criticized for messaging on teen suicide

Mental health advocates are raising concerns over the message conveyed by Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, about the suicide of a teen girl.

Netflix series raising concerns about potential glorification of suicide

Hannah Baker is pictured in "13 Reasons Why," a Netflix series raising controversy over its subject matter. (Netflix)

A Netflix series centering on the suicide of a teen girl after a series of failures in her life has mental health advocates raising concerns over the message conveyed.

The Distress Centre run by the Downtown Mission of Windsor often receives calls from young people considering suicide or self-harm. CEO Ron Dunn says he isn't specifically against 13 Reasons Why, but is concerned about how the series' narrative is framed. 

Series presents suicide as "fun" not "tragic"

In 13 Reasons Why central character Hannah Baker, played by actress Katherine Langford, kills herself after a series of traumas in her life and then leaves audio tapes of herself behind for her friends to listen to through the course of the series.

"Hannah narrates her own series after her death. Which kind of makes it seem like it's a lot of fun, and suicide is nothing short of just tragic," said Dunn.

Ron Dunn, CEO of the Downtown Mission, is concerned about the message conveyed by Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Educators and mental health professionals have expressed concern the program could glorify suicide if taken out of context.

"Hollywood sensationalizes things sometimes. We're not coming out necessarily against the series. It is starting a conversation... and that's not a bad thing," said Dunn. "But we need parents to talk to their teens and their twenty-somethings about the fact that it's fictional and there's other options."

Important to talk about suicide

Mental health professionals have said that just watching a series about suicide isn't inherently dangerous, but it needs to be combined with open and honest conversation.

"If it's not where you're at, it's not where you're at. So I don't think it's going to push somebody over the edge," added Dunn. "Your kids are watching these things. Pretending that they're not isn't the answer...talking about suicide is okay."

Feeling distressed, depressed or suicidal? Help is available. 

1) Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare operates a 24-hour crisis line: (519) 973-4435.
For more information on the warning signs of suicide, visit their website.

2) The Distress Centre of Windsor and Essex County is open from noon to midnight 365 days a year and provides emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Contact them at (519) 256-5000.

Downtown Mission CEO Ron Dunn on suicide in '13 Reasons Why'

7 years ago
Duration 6:46
Featured VideoMental health advocates are criticizing the portrayal of suicide in Netflix series 13 Reasons Why

with files from CBC Radio's Windsor Morning