- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Mental health officials in Australia say the Netflix teen drama “13 Reasons Why” is to credit for a spike in calls to suicide-prevention hotlines, as mental-health experts slam the program as unhelpful or even counterproductive in stemming teen suicides, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The series, also available for streaming in the United States and executive-produced by pop star Selena Gomez, includes a graphic suicide depiction involving the main character, Hannah Baker, slitting her wrists in a bathtub.

That sort of graphic portrayal in the streaming-video service’s drama violates the industry-adopted standard in Australia that is generally followed, THR reported.

“There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience — and on a young audience in particular,” said Dr. Steven Leicester, a psychologist with headspace, Australia’s National Youth Mental Health Foundation.

For its part, Netflix did set up a website pegged to “13 Reasons Why” that gives visitors information for suicide prevention hotlines in the 35 countries in which the program is available for streaming, THR said. 

Producers involved with the project defended their work.

“We worked very hard not to be gratuitous,” said show creator Brian Yorkey, DigitalSpy.com reported Tuesday. “But we did want it to be painful to watch, because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide.”

In March, CNN reported that Ms. Gomez’s adaptation of “13 Reasons” — it was published by author Jay Asher as a novel in 2007 —was aimed at raising awareness of bullying, depression and teen suicide.

“People — no matter what age — you can relate to this story,” Ms. Gomez said, reported CNN. “Everyone has gone through this. And more than ever, this should be talked about today.”

• Ken Shepherd can be reached at kshepherd@washingtontimes.com.

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