Netflix has modified an episode of the controversial series “13 Reasons Why” two years after its original airing, citing sensitivity to the “ongoing debate” that’s been occurring regarding the show’s depiction and characterization of teen suicide. In a statement provided to The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming provider explained why it removed a scene that depicted the suicide of main character Hannah (played by Katherine Langford) which lasted nearly three minutes, opting instead to have this take place entirely off-camera in the updated edit.
“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 wrote in the statement. “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 from season one.”
This scene was part of the original season one finale, but now skips the direct depiction and instead leads right into the reaction of Hannah’s parents to her death. Netflix also told THR that it will be actively monitoring and issuing take-down requests for pirated distribution of versions of the show that feature the unedited clip.
Showrunner Brian Yorkey also issued his own statement about the change, sharing this via Twitter in a Notes screenshot capture:
It was our hope, in making 13 Reasons Why into a television show, to tell a story that would help young viewers feel seen and heard, and encourage empathy in all who viewed it, much as the bestselling book did before us. Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we ready to launch Season 3, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will hep the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers.
Earlier this year, a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry found that the show coincided with a bigger increase in suicides among people aged 10 to 17 than was predicted by researchers, and the graphic depiction of Hannah’s suicide was cited as a particular risk factor among experts in the field. The study’s designers noted that they could only determine correlation, not causation, but it was enough to deepen the conversation around the show’s potential impact, which had begun along with its debut in 2017.
Meanwhile, the third season of the show is set to debut later this summer, and while Netflix told THR that it will not include any depictions of suicide, it is likely to reignite the conversation about the show’s impact, and Netflix is likely hoping this pre-emptive edit will help curb some of the negative reaction to the ongoing production of the series.
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HOME to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.