Remember the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why”? A popular teen show, it made headlines over the controversial way it portrayed and possibly glamorized suicide (which I wrote about here). For many critics of the show, the fear was that it dramatized suicide in an enticing way–and didn’t show safe alternatives for teens who have suicidal thoughts.
Well, sadly, this fear may have come true, as a 23-year-old in Peru died by suicide and left behind recordings that seem to be inspired by the show. According to Diario Clarín, Franco Alonso Lazo Medrano jumped from the balcony of his family’s fourth floor apartment after yelling, “I can’t stand a heartbreak.”
His mom witnessed the entire thing. According to Refinery 29, Medrano left two suicide notes, one to a woman named Claudia and another listing names of people “for whom he had recorded tapes, claiming these people were the ones who caused him to commit suicide.”
While the suicide notes themselves didn’t reference or refer to the show, it’s timing and manner is tied to the entire premise. Either way, it’s a horrific tragedy that Medrano died by suicide–and wasn’t able to receive the help he needed.
The backlash against the show has been so real that a school in Canada is trying to ban students from talking about the series, while mental health organizations deem the show “dangerous,” which is why Netflix put trigger warnings before each episode. Netflix released a statement to BuzzFeed about this:
“There has been a tremendous amount of discussion about our series 13 Reasons Why. While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories. Currently the episodes that carry graphic content are identified as such and the series overall carries a TV-MA rating. Moving forward, we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter, including the URL 13ReasonsWhy.info — a global resource center that provides information about professional organizations that support help around the serious matters addressed in the show.”
We can’t blame the show for what happened, but the show may have influenced Medrano in some way, even if it isn’t the cause of his tragic action.
When writing about sensitive issues like suicide, we need to be mindful of how it may trigger people.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit their website.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.