By Mollie Tracey
Netflix drama series 13 Reasons Why has caused a whirl in the media since it aired in March, with concern about graphic content and glamourising suicide.
The show, based on the best-selling book by Jay Asher and starring Perth actress Katherine Langford, is about a teenager who commits suicide, leaving behind 13 audiotapes detailing the events that led to her death.
Headspace, a mental health service for young people, is concerned that 13 Reasons Why could be harmful for some viewers and has issued a warning following concerns by schools, parents and young people.
“Research clearly indicates the very real impact and risk to harmful suicide exposure leading to increased risk and possible suicide contagion,” national manager of headspace school support Kristen Douglas says.
The organisation broadcasters have a duty of care to their viewers and to be aware of what could cause harm.
“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 young people in particular,” Dr Steven Leicester, head of eheadspace says.
Murdoch University Associate Professor in journalism Chris Smyth says sensitive issues of society need to be in the media, both fiction and non-fiction, but in a constructive manner.
“If they’re important issues in society, they need to be reflected in the media,” Smyth says.
“They’ve got to be done in a responsible way so that they don’t exacerbate problems and this has occurred in the case of suicide where there might be copycat events afterwards.”
The actress who plays Hannah Baker in the series has defended the handling of the issue in an Instagram post which urges young people to seek help if they need it.
“This is a story I feel affects so many people, and I’m proud we were able to tell it in a way that we did,” Langford, 21, wrote.
If you need assistance or support contact:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Headspace: 1800 650 890