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Utah suicide expert says '13 Reasons Why' creates 'more trauma and more pain' for teens

This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series, "13 Reasons Why," about a teenager who commits suicide. The stomach-turning suicide scene has triggered criticism from some mental health advocates that it romanticizes su
This image released by Netflix shows Katherine Langford in a scene from the series, "13 Reasons Why," about a teenager who commits suicide. The stomach-turning suicide scene has triggered criticism from some mental health advocates that it romanticizes suicide and even promoted many schools across the country to send warning letters to parents and guardians. The show’s creators are unapologetic, saying their frank depiction of teen life needs to be “unflinching and raw.” (Beth Dubber/Netflix via AP)
Beth Dubber, Netflix

A Utah suicide expert says “13 Reasons Why” creates “more trauma and more pain” for teens

On March 31, Netflix released the show, a 13-episode series based on the book of the same title.

The show — which tells the fictional story of Hannah Baker, a teen girl who records a set of cassette tapes that reveal her 13 reasons for killing herself — has been met with much praise and criticism. A second season looks to be on the horizon. The show’s actors have become celebrities overnight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JebwYGn5Z3ELeading Utah suicide expert Greg Hudnall said parents shouldn’t watch the show, or let their kids watch it in any capacity because it sensationalizes suicide.

"I'm all about educating people on prevention,” he told the Deseret News in a phone interview. “I'm all about suicide prevention. What I'm not about is sensationalizing suicide."

Hudnall offered three suggestions about what parents should do with regards to the show.

  • Don’t let your child watch it: The show’s negative messages about suicide create too many problems for impressionable minds.
  • Watch it with your child: If your child wants to watch the show, make sure you watch it with them. After each episode, have a conversation about the episode and what it means to the child.
  • Find solutions: He said parents should find ways to offer resources to their children. He said it may be beneficial for Utah parents to download the SafeUT app to help children deal with suicide.

“We still want to provide that hope,” he said. He added, "I think in the long run it (the show) can cause more trauma and more pain for children.”

Since the show’s release in March, schools, experts and critics are warning parents about the its apparent dangers — how it depicts suicide, sexual assault and high school drama. Experts are also concerned about the way the show represents and glamorizes the act of suicide.

As The Independent reported, public schools nationwide have sent out warning letters about the show to students' parents.

“While the show is fictional, the series is extremely graphic, including several rape scenes, and raises significant concerns about the emotional safety of those watching it,” said one letter from a public school in Montclair, New Jersey, according to The Independent.

In fact, teens in New Zealand aren’t allowed to watch “13 Reasons Why” without an adult present. New Zealand's Office of Film & Literature Classification created a new rating system just for the Netflix show, requiring anyone under the age of 18 to have adult supervision watch watching the program.

"This classification allows the intended audience of young people to continue to access the series, while providing the necessary intervention of adult supervision in order to keep them safe and sufficiently navigate the relevant but troubling issues that we acknowledge as a part of their lived reality," according to a release on the office’s website.