The creator of Netflix’s controversial television adaptation 13 Reasons Why is defending the show against reports of increased suicides. Executive producer Brian Yorkey has made his case alongside the series' adviser, psychiatrist Rebecca Hedrick.
Ahead of the show's third season premiere, they are defending 13 Reasons Why against reports suggesting the show is linked to an increase in youth suicides. Late last year, a study suggested that the drama may increase the risk of teen suicide. The series creator and the show's adviser refuted study findings in a guest column for THR.
In the guest column, they discuss the exhaustive efforts that have been made to work with experts to keep 13 Reasons Why authentic. They also note the positive impact they say the show has had in improving teens' communication with their parents.
The duo also rebutted recent studies’ findings. Using data from Centers for Disease Control, they point out that there was not an increase in suicide rates for adolescent females (age 10 to 19) during the spring of 2017. That's the season when 13 Reasons Why made its debut.
Other data they presented showed that November 2016 was the highest recorded month for adolescent female suicides. That's several months before 13 Reasons Why debuted. They added that the rise in adolescent male suicides began before the series premiered.
Elsewhere in the piece, the creator and series adviser point to a study by psychologist Christopher Ferguson. They state that Ferguson’s findings did not support the theory that fictional media contributes more to “suicide contagion” than “coverage of real-life suicides, especially by celebrities.” They also say those critical of 13 Reasons Why have ignored one of its positive contributions:
Critics have pointed to spikes in crisis call-center activity, internet searches, and posts online to argue that the series has driven suicidal behavior. This ignores the way the show actually encouraged people who were struggling to reach out for help. After the launch of Season 1, Crisis Text Line says that nearly 70 percent of those who contacted them for the first time cited 13 Reasons Why as the impetus to seek help, with 65 percent admitting to sharing something they had never talked about before.
Will what 13 Reasons Why’s creator and its adviser have said help stem the controversy? Or at least, turn the tide? Observers will have to wait and see. While studies have been coming out ever since the show premiered, the conversation tends to increase with its release.
Producers for 13 Reasons Why have not remained silent to the criticism. Last year, Selena Gomez’s mother Mandy Teefey, who is also a producer on the series, spoke out. Teefey defended the show amid the response to its highly controversial second season.
For those unfamiliar with it, 13 Reasons Why is an adaptation of Jay Asher’s novel of the same name. Season 1 follows the aftermath of Hannah Baker’s suicide. Following her death, thirteen cassette tapes arrive for her friend, Clay. In them, she reveals what led to her decision to take her own life. Season 2 premiered last May.
The data Nielsen does have suggests the vast majority of the Netflix show’s viewership is comprised of people 34-years-old or younger. It is because of 13 Reasons Why's youth-skewed audience that the show has been met with concern.
In response to concerns post-Season 1, content warnings were placed before episodes that depict graphic imagery. The series also provides resources post-episodes to help viewers who are potentially in crisis.