Teen series under fire for graphic rape, suicide scenes

A new Netflix series that targets teens and features graphic scenes of suicide and rape is being accused of seriously putting youths at risk.

13 Reasons Why centres on the self-inflicted death of 17-year-old Hannah Baker, who leaves behind 13 tapes - one for each of the people she says caused her to end her life.

It premiered a fortnight ago and has become the most widely shared streaming show on social media ever.

While some are praising the series for generating discussion about important issues, it's also being called exploitative and dangerous.

New Zealand's Mental Health Foundation is joining a chorus of experts around the world accusing the show for being potentially harmful.

"It's actually quite an unethical programme and it's really exploiting young people and their concerns, and trivialising topics around mental health and suicide," chief executive Shaun Robinson told Radio NZ.

"I am very concerned about the very graphic and detailed portrayal of how Hannah takes her own life... I'm very concerned that this could seriously put young people's lives at risk."

The Spinoff had 17-year-old Kiwi Bree Brown write an article on her concerns about the show.

"13 Reasons Why glorifies suicide and mental illness, and that’s a huge risk given what we know about the suicide contagion phenomenon. I hope that parents understand that while [it] is accurate in some respects... there's a lot about it that is just wrong," writes Ms Brown.

"The message is - there's no way out. There's no way to address bullying... That's a horrible and potentially devastating message for teenagers who are often struggling with their own suicidal or self-harming thoughts and may need help themselves."

Critically, 13 Reasons Why has received generally favourable reviews, with a 76 rating on Metacritic.

The show is available to view in New Zealand now for Netflix subscribers.

Where to get help:

  • Lifeline: 0800 543 354
  • Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 / 0508 TAUTOKO
  • Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234, or email talk@youthline.co.nz
  • Kidsline (ages 5-18): 0800 543 754