Guidance for viewers of Netflix drama 13 Reasons Why

Drama can be a really helpful way of bringing difficult issues, including suicide, to a wide range of audiences. It can help to raise awareness, start important conversations and encourage people to seek help. 

We’re aware that young people in particular want to see real life issues covered in drama aimed at their age group. This can be an opportunity, but also a challenge for programme makers because research shows when covering suicide and self-harm, it’s important to do this responsibly.  

Seasons one and two of 13 Reasons Why cover a number of difficult issues in great depth, including bullying, drug misuse, sexual assault, self-harm and suicide. While we want people to feel they can talk openly about these topics, we know it’s not always easy, and covering all of these issues in one drama could make this difficult viewing for some.  

For this reason, we believe 13 Reasons Why is not necessarily suitable for everyone. 

If you have experienced any of the difficulties mentioned, especially if you have experienced suicidal feelings or have been bereaved by suicide, or have experience of self-harm, watching 13 Reasons Why could trigger difficult memories and feelings for you.  

If you do decide to watch it and find this happens, remember there is help available. Talk to someone if you find you keep thinking about the programme or if it’s brought up difficult feelings.  

You could talk to a parent, or a trusted adult, a counsellor, your GP, or you could contact one of many helplines available to listen and support you through this – contact details of these are listed at the bottom of this guidance. The important thing is that there is always someone who will listen and can offer help.  

If you do watch the series, take advantage of the fact that you have the option to pause and take a break with on-demand viewing. You don’t have to watch it all if you’re finding it tough to view.  

Remember that 13 Reasons Why is a fictional drama, with characters’ stories played out by actors, the characters are not real people. While many of the issues covered in the show, are experienced by some young people, it’s helpful to separate fiction from reality, and bear in mind that issues are often exaggerated and distorted for dramatic effect.  

In reality, suicide is an extreme behaviour and is a permanent response to what are temporary problems. While at times the difficulties we encounter can feel overwhelming, and it can be hard to see a way through, things can always be worked through and talking can help. Deaths by suicide are relatively rare among young people.  

It’s useful to compare some of the dramatic effect portrayed in the drama with reality. For example, Hannah’s repeated reappearance as a vision to Clay Jenson.  This is of course very far removed from the reality of suicide. When a person dies by suicide their life is over forever and there are no longer opportunities to get help or turn things around. 

In reality, there are so many options available to deal with life’s problems  

Suicide is never an effective way to deal with problems we experience like this, nor is it a constructive way of highlighting that someone has wronged you in any way. 

Suicidal feelings are treatable. While they can feel intense at the time, there is help available and they will pass. If you’re struggling to cope, you may need help. Take it as a sign you need to talk to someone about your feelings. Talking very often brings relief and can help us to see different options, helping us to find a way through difficult stuff.  

Some people find it easier to talk to someone outside their family, someone who is not directly connected with their life, or even to talk to someone anonymously. If this is your preference, you can call Samaritans’ helpline, for free, any time of the day or night on 116123, or email us at: jo@samaritans.org There are also many helpful sources of advice and support listed on our website: https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help-you/other-sources-help  

We would also encourage you to speak out if you’re worried about a friend who may have been affected by the show. Talking and offering help won’t make the person feel worse, it’s okay to ask if they’re okay. It may be a relief for them to know that someone has spotted they may be having a difficult time and that someone is there to support them.  


 

Netflix has also produced resources for viewers and a short film where the actors talk about the issues raised and encourage people to seek help if they have been affected by the series. 

There are also many helplines and resources available to offer help now.

If you feel you are at immediate risk of harming yourself, please dial 999 and get emergency help now.