TV’s Obsession with Suicide Can Do Real Harm

June 16, 2017

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


Recent depictions of suicide in entertainment media have prompted concern among suicide prevention advocates. While television shows such as Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why may have sparked a dialogue about suicide and mental health issues, their sensationalized and graphic content can be harmful to those at risk. “We are talking about it more often. But we certainly aren’t talking about it better,” said Dese’Rae L. Stage, a suicide attempt survivor and creator of the project Live Through This. In response, suicide prevention experts are working with the Entertainment Industry Council to encourage depictions of suicide that counter negative stereotypes rather than reinforcing them. Some have suggested that a standardized set of recommendations should be developed for the entertainment industry, with information on how to present a more nuanced portrayal of suicide. Entertainment Industry Council President and CEO Marie Dyak said, “Suicide portrayals are similar to mental health conditions. We don’t want to say a person is bipolar—that’s just one piece of it. They are so much more than a diagnosis. They’re a full person.”

Spark Extra! Explore SPRC’s list of resources on 13 Reasons Why.