Two 15-year-old California teens committed suicide in April, and died just four days apart. The grieving families believe that Bella Herndon and Priscilla Chui’s deaths were caused by the Netflix show produced by Selena Gomez, “13 Reasons Why.”
The show depicts a teenage girl, Hannah Baker, and her life in high school before she killed herself. The entire script is about the other students listening to the tapes she left behind, telling them why she killed herself. The show is meant to show people the effect that suicide has on those around you. However, these California families believe it played a part in the two girls’ deaths because, due to the fact that they both watched the show before they died.
Priscilla’s uncle Peter Chui said, “It’s very graphic, especially the two-minute scene where she slits her wrists in a bathtub,”he continued, “I feel it’s dangerous for that small percentage of young adults who the show can become a trigger for them and I feel as if the show gives only one alternative for cyber bullying and other teenage issues.”
Chui knew Priscilla was depressed and hated school. He added, “And I feel like the absolute worst adult because I kept forcing her to go to school.”
Critics of the show, which is based on Jay Asher’s New York Times bestseller and produced by Selena Gomez, have claimed it glamorizes suicide. The series centers on character Hannah Baker and the reasons why she killed herself, which she details in a set of cassette tapes that she mails to her classmates.
Brain Yorkey, the show’s writer, has defended the series’ message against critics, claiming it portrays suicide in a “very ugly and very damaging” light.
In response to demands from mental health advocates and viewer complaints, in May Netflix added a content warning before the first episode of the series in addition to two others that already existed. It also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards.
The series was renewed for a second season, which has angered Bella’s family, who believe there are no positive messages left behind by the show.
“Don’t go through with the renewal for the second season of ’13 Reasons Why,’” John Hurdon, the teen’s father, told KTVU. “Stop this. This is wrong. You’re making money off the misery of others.”
Netflix released a statement to KTVU expressing condolences for the teens, but said the series has opened up a dialogue for many others.
“Our hearts go out to these families during this difficult time,” the statement said. “We have heard from many viewers that 13 Reasons Why has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the difficult topics depicted in the show. We took extra precautions to alert viewers to the nature of the content and created a global website to help people find local mental health resources.”
Could a TV show created to show people the horrible effects of suicide actual impact a teenager to the commit it?