Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” and its depictions of suicide have pushed New Zealand officials to add a rating on the show that means anyone under 18 will need adult supervision to watch.
The country’s Office of Film and Literature Classification announced the R18 rating on Thursday with a media release and a blog explaining why it revised the rating.
For those who might be unfamiliar, “13 Reasons Why” revolves around the suicide of Hannah Baker and the tapes she left behind for those who contributed to the reasons why she killed herself. Hannah’s suicide is shown in graphic detail, from the act itself to the aftermath.
“Suicide should not be presented to anyone as being the result of clear headed thinking,” the office’s blog stated. “Suicide is preventable, and most people who experience suicidal thoughts are not thinking rationally and therefore cannot make logical decisions.”
“13 Reasons Why” was released globally on March 31 but only received the rating nearly a month afterward because Netflix doesn’t need to submit its series for rating reviews in New Zealand. According to the media release, Netflix stopped submitting their series to the classification office in August 2016.
“The series raises a lot of issues but often fails to fully address them, and it’s really important that trusted adults can step in at that point,” said Jared Mullen, the office’s deputy chief censor.
Advocacy groups and mental health experts have pushed back against “13 Reasons Why” and its graphic depictions of suicide. They argue that the show glamorizes suicide and fails to explore the mental health issues that accompany the act.
Even with some backlash, the cast and crew have been proud of the conversations sparked by the show. Actress Kate Walsh, who plays the Hannah’s mother, told news that the show should be “mandatory” for teens during a Build Series event on Monday. She defended the show and the decision of its creator, Brian Yorkey, to be honest in its suicide.
“People have been reacting differently to showing Hannah in the act of suicide and all the other sexual assault scenes, rape scenes. But Brian was intent on making sure there was nothing romantic or mysterious that anybody could project on to this to make it some dreamy, gothy or some romantic Ophelia moment,” Walsh said.
“I think there’s a lot of this idea in the mystery and the shame and the secrecy of suicide that no one talks about, that you can project this idea that it’s all going to be peaceful and blissed-out … [but] to really deal with depression and mental illness and these huge issues and show what it really looks like if someone tries to take their life ― it’s ugly and it’s really hard and it should be seen.”
Members of the cast have encouraged parents to watch the show with their kids and hoped the show would allow teens to seek help, even though Hannah had bad experiences with the school counselor.
“I think [parents] should watch it with their kids and I really do think it should be mandatory in schools to watch this and talk about it and have education around it,” Walsh said.
Selena Gomez, who is producer on the show, has been very vocal about releasing the stigmas surrounding mental health issues. In an interview with Vogue, Gomez spoke about her experiences in therapy and the importance of self-care.
“I wish more people would talk about therapy,” Gomez told Vogue. “We girls, we’re taught to be almost too resilient, to be strong and sexy and cool and laid-back, the girl who’s down. We also need to feel allowed to fall apart.”
If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO 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.