Netflix Series Depicting Suicide Starts Critical Conversation

Health Writer

A graphic and controversial Netflix series about a suicidal teen, 13 Reasons Why, has ignited a global conversation about suicide.

“That’s a good thing because change, positive change can come from that,” Kevin Hines, suicide survivor and award-winning speaker and filmmaker said in a telephone interview with Health Central. “We have a huge societal issue. Parents should constantly be working to talk to their children about it.” Hines even goes a step further in praising actress and singer Selena Gomez, the show’s co-executive producer, for doing “something remarkable.”

The show, he says, has turned a spotlight on the dark corners of what it is like to be suicidal.

Hines, 35, knows something about suicide.

At age 17, Hines was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. In 2000 he attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge and survived. His story was featured in director and producer Eric Steel's 2006 film, The Bridge. Hines is one of only 36 (less than one percent) to survive the fall and, according to his website, he is the only Gold Gate Bridge jump survivor actively spreading the message of living mentally healthy.

13 Reasons Why is graphic in its depiction of suicide. Parents should consider watching the show with their children and should consider not allowing them to binge-watch it. The show is based on a 2007 book of the same name.

The series is rife with flaws and myths, Hines said, but he did not want to focus on those. They have been covered ad nauseam. Additionally, the show is one of the most successful in Netflix history and isn’t going away.

“Instead of fighting and complaining, we need to come together to be a catalyst for change,” Hines said.

As a society, he says, we do not talk openly, candidly and bravely about suicide, yet it’s happening all around us every day.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among persons aged 10–24 years in the United States and accounted for 5,178 deaths in this age group in 2012, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The outcry over the show prompted Netflix to add "trigger" warnings to let viewers know what the episodes addressed. That’s a good start, Hines said.

Still, he advocates that the show and its producers consider placing the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number at the end of every episode and has signed a petition encouraging such an outcome.

What you can do?

Empower yourself and your friends and family.

Know and understand the warning signs of suicide. If someone you know is showing one or more of the following behaviors, he or she may be thinking about suicide. Don’t ignore these warning signs. Get help immediately.

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill oneself
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

“That,” he said, “would be ideal.”

(As of mid-September 2017, the petition needs around 1,700 signatures to reach the organizer's goal of 7,500.)

If you or someone you know is showing warning signs of suicide, consider contacting the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK, texting “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741 or seeking help from a professional. All are free and confidential. You’ll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor in your area.

In addition, know what resources are available to discuss the issue:

See more helpful articles:

10 Signs of a Depression Relapse

Top 10 Depression Myths Debunked

10 Ways to Cope with Your Partner's Depression