New Zealand has upped it’s rating on the controversial show 13 Reasons Why.
The Netflix drama that debuted last month has sparked widespread discussion on suicide prevention and concern from some mental health organizations.
And now it’s concerning the government of New Zealand, so much so they upped the rating to RP18 – meaning minors should only be watching with their parents or guardians.
The main reason? There’s no alternative to suicide presented.
The show, which Netflix rates as “mature” and says may not be suitable for children under the age of 17, tells the story of a high school student who takes her own life, and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes created for people she blames.
New Zealand has the highest youth suicide rates according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a global organization aiming to promote people’s well-being around the world.
The Office of Film and Literature Classification in New Zealand decided to up their rating of the show after consulting with experts who say 13 Reasons Why could have a major effect on teenagers around the country.
While the office admits that there’s merit to having a show that can jump-start a conversation about suicide, they want the conversations to be “informed and safe,” which means “parents, guardians, and other adults need to have open conversations with their young people about the issues,” officials from the office explained in a blog post.
“This is a nuanced show that asks a lot of questions, and raises a lot of issues, but often fails to either answer or fully address them. Therefore, discussion needs to occur outside the series itself.”
The Sexual Abuse Prevention Network told the classification office the show offers no “positive examples of appropriate responses to rape disclosures.”
“It is also extremely damaging to present rape as a ‘good enough’ reason for someone to commit suicide. This sends the wrong message to survivors of sexual violence about their futures, and their worth.”
Another reason given is “suicide contagion,” in which youth are more likely to commit suicide after hearing about someone else’s suicide. It accounts for five per cent of youth suicides, according to the classification office.
It’s a point that Canadian suicide prevention experts have already made.
“Dramatic portrayal of a suicide death glamorizes suicide, and may trigger those who are already struggling with suicidal thoughts. Suicide is not glamorous; it is an act carried out in complete and utter desperation as a result of acute suffering,” the Centre for Suicide Prevention said in a release.
Psychologist Cory Hrushka told Global News earlier this week that watching the show with your kids could make broaching sensitive topics easier.
He said a lot of teens have encountered topics such as bullying and suicide by the time they reach high school.
“It also allows you to not only bond with the child but gauge how they are reacting to the show, and if they have any questions, it allows them to ask those, if the parent is open enough to that,” Hrushka said.
In Ontario, the Ministry of Education warned teachers not to use it as a classroom tool — but also encourages discussion of suicide.
— With files from Global News’ Laurel Gregory