When the recently released Netflix series 13 Reasons Why came out, it obviously brought up the major issue of teen suicide that doesn’t get discussed often. There was praise for bringing awareness to the topic in a mainstream way, but there was also a heavy amount of criticism directed at the show for the way it portrayed suicide and depression. Among other things, many people (including legitimate grief counselors) felt that the show portrayed an unrealistic version of suicide and almost glamorized it in a way that would make it seem almost appealing to depressed teens looking for an outlet. As much as we wish that weren’t true, a news story from this week is making it seem that way. According to the New York Daily News, a 23-year-old Peruvian man appeared to commit suicide this week by jumping out of the window of his home. He is said to have left behind a suicide note and a series of tapes meant to be delivered to people he knew.
We don’t know what the tapes said, but anyone who watched 13 Reasons Why knows that this whole story sounds eerily similar to the plot. In the show, a teen named Hannah Baker commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes that are intended to be sent to her peers. As we said, critics believe that this glorified suicide, since many depressed people considering suicide think of it as the ultimate way to get the attention of everyone. Critics also believe the show downplayed the after-effects of suicide.
So, was this tragic real life incident really inspired by the show? We really, really hope not, as that would be awful, but it’s hard not to make the connections when it seems so similar. It’s also hard to blame a TV show for something like suicide, which isn’t caused by just one thing, and is the result of the disease of depression. On top of that, it’s tough to rip apart a show that many depressed teens felt was relatable and important.
No one from the show has made an official statement about this just yet. For what it’s worth, 13 Reasons Why co-producer Selena Gomez recently discussed the controversy surrounding the show (although this is completely unrelated to the Peruvian man incident) and admitted that the show takes on a heavy subject, but one that needs to be talked about.
“This is happening every day,” she said on the Elvis Duran Show. “Whether or not you wanted to see it, that’s what’s happening. The content is complicated. It’s dark and it has moments that are honestly very hard to swallow, and I understood that we were doing something that is difficult. But these kids today are so exposed to things that I would never even comprehend when I was eight-years-old. My cousin teaches third grade and they’re doing things and saying things that I couldn’t even fathom.” She’s right, these kids are exposed to things like this every day, but is this normalizing it too much? There is a line between teaching teens about suicide and making a TV show about suicide as a form of entertainment, which can be very tricky.
We can’t be sure that this man’s death is directly inspired by this TV show. Whatever the reason for this person’s death, it is heartbreaking that he felt that he had to commit suicide instead of get help. In a time where bullying is so common, both in high schoolers and young adults all over the world, it can be hard to reach out for help.
If you or someone you know is suffering with depression, please don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
Have you seen 13 Reason Why? What do you think of the show? Tell us in the comments!