NZ Classification Office gives 13 Reasons Why RP18 rating

Controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been classified as RP18 by the New Zealand Classification Officer over concerns about graphic rape and suicide scenes.

Deputy Chief Censor Jared Mullen says the classification of the previously unclassified series signals the "strong content" and that parents and caregivers should play a role in discussing what the show depicts.

The series centres on the suicide of 17-year-old Hannah Baker who leaves behind 13 tapes which are sent to 12 people she says caused her to take her own life.

It's been both praised and criticised for the discussion it has opened up about suicide.

But now the Classification Office has stepped in with a legally binding decision that the show should carry the following warning:

"Series deals with suicide, bullying and depression. Episodes may contain violence, sexual material, drug use, and frequent offensive language. Some episodes contain graphic depictions of suicide and rape." 

The office had notified Netflix of the classification which would be displayed before each episode, however, a spokesperson told Newshub how the practicalities of that would be left with the streaming service.

The decision says because of the concerns over the show both in New Zealand and abroad, the Chief Censor used his powers to put a classification on the series.

As part of making that decision, the office spoke a number of 14 to 18-year-olds about their views.

"All the teens we spoke to felt the show addressed issues that were relevant to them, and that the series overall had positive messages relating to social awareness: treating others with respect and compassion, and raising awareness about suicide, sexual violence, bullying, and other issues."

However, there was still concern about the treatment of suicide in the show which goes against established guidelines including showing clearly showing the method Hannah uses to kill herself.

The decision says there's a risk of "copycat behaviour".

"The RP18 classification recognises that 16- and 17- year olds continue to be at high risk of suicidal thoughts, but also recognises that teens should continue to have access to the show with the support of the adults in their lives."

The office says it didn't impose an R18 classification on the show because that would mean those younger than that age wouldn't be allowed to watch it.

It says the show actually has a number of positive messages for young people and "encourages them to think about the consequences of their actions".

"A restriction to those over 16 or 18 years would shut out a large proportion of the audience for this show - preventing these positive messages from reaching them."

If a teen has started watching the show already, the office recommends parents watch the show as well so they can talk about what the issues the show addresses.

The office says it didn't put the classification on the show when it first came out because Netflix stopped submitting its content to them in August 2016.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs immediate help, call Lifeline on 0800 543 354 or the Suicide Prevention Helpline on 0508 828 865.