Netflix has removed a controversial suicide scene from its teen drama 13 Reasons Why more than two years on from its premiere.
In a statement, the streaming service said that the three-minute-long sequence from the show’s first season, which depicts the central character taking her own life, had been re-edited on the advice of medical experts.
“We’ve heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help – often for the first time,” Netflix said.
“As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we’ve decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life.”
Adapted from Jay Asher’s young adult novel of the same name, 13 Reasons Why concerns the suicide of high-school student Hannah Baker and the effect her death has on her classmates.
The re-edited scene, which had previously depicted Baker’s suicide in graphic detail, now cuts directly from a shot of the character looking at herself in the mirror to her parents reacting to her death.
In a statement, the Samaritans welcomed Netflix’s decision to remove the sequence, and said that the charity had been working with the streaming service’s UK arm to provide advice on how to safely portray suicide.
“While covering difficult topics in drama can help to increase understanding and encourage people to seek help, it’s important this is done in a responsible way due to the evidenced risks associated with covering this topic in the media”, Lorna Fraser, of the charity’s media advisory service, said. “Programme makers should always seek advice from experts on the portrayal of suicide, to ensure any risk to vulnerable viewers is minimised.”
Netflix was criticised by the Samaritans and mental health groups over for the “sensationalised” nature of the scene upon the drama’s release in April 2017, with a spokesperson for the Royal College of Psychiatrists saying that dramatic depictions of suicide “needlessly put vulnerable young people at risk of copycat behaviour”.
A report released earlier this year by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, meanwhile, found that suicide among teenagers rose by 28.9% in the month after the launch of the first season. While the report cited no direct causation between the scene and the increase, its co-author called on the media to “be constructive and thoughtful” about its influence over vulnerable people.
In the wake of the controversy, Netflix added cards warning viewers of graphic content, as well as creating a website that provided support for those affected by the themes of the show.
The decision to re-edit the offending scene follows the removal of a sequence in its dystopian drama Bird Box that featured footage from a real-life rail disaster.
Despite the controversy around 13 Reasons Why, the drama has proved popular among Netflix’s audience, with six million viewers watching the opening episode of its second season within three days of its launch, according to independent estimates by Nielsen. A third season is due later this year.