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Netflix Edits Out Controversial Suicide Scene From '13 Reasons Why' Season 1

Jul 16, 2019
Originally published on July 16, 2019 10:01 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Season three of the Netflix teen drama "13 Reasons Why" premieres later this summer, but today we're talking about season one, which premiered two years ago. It centered on a character named Hannah Baker. After being raped and bullied, she killed herself. Netflix has now edited out a controversial scene depicting her suicide. NPR's Andrew Limbong has the details.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: In the season one finale of Netflix's "13 Reasons Why," teenager Clay Jensen describes his friend Hannah's last day.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

DYLAN MINNETTE: (As Clay Jensen) She returned her uniform to the Crestmont, where I worked with her. She didn't say anything.

LIMBONG: And then he describes the moment she kills herself.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

MINNETTE: (As Clay Jensen) She went into the bathroom.

LIMBONG: In the original version, Clay describes how Hannah kills herself. And you see it happen in graphic detail. But if you go to Netflix now, you'll instead see Hannah look at herself in the mirror, breathe. Then the show cuts straight to this.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "13 REASONS WHY")

MINNETTE: (As Clay Jensen) She died alone.

LIMBONG: Her parents discover her body in the bathroom.

LISA HOROWITZ: I think this is a step in the right direction.

LIMBONG: That's Lisa Horowitz, pediatric psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health. She's also the co-author of a 2019 study that looked at a concerning spike in adolescent suicides in the months after "13 Reasons Why" first came out.

HOROWITZ: There was a almost 30% increase in the suicide rate above what was projected. So what that equated to was about 195 additional deaths between April and December of 2017.

LIMBONG: The study can't say the show caused the spike, but it is a disturbing correlation. In a statement, the show's creator, Brian Yorkey, said that they intended to show the ugly, painful reality of suicide and make sure no one would wish to emulate it. Yorkey agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. Quote, "we believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating the risk for especially younger viewers."

Lisa Horowitz's study didn't come out until this year, but Dr. Christine Moutier has been working with Netflix since after season one. She's the chief medical officer for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She helped them put together a website and PSAs that deal with suicide, depression, assault. Moutier says the show's producers came to her in the run-up to the upcoming third season with the idea of editing the suicide scene out.

CHRISTINE MOUTIER: This is a rare moment for a big company like Netflix to make such a decision. And I think it does speak to that this is a high-level, high-priority public health crisis area of mental health struggles and suicide in our nation and particularly among youth.

LIMBONG: But Lisa Horowitz says that the show's problems go deeper than one scene. It's inherent in the plot of a girl killing herself and leaving a trail of clues for her friends.

HOROWITZ: For example, one of the things that mental health clinicians recommend is that you don't talk about or publish the suicide note. And "13 Reasons Why" is really 13 hours of a suicide note, and that's a problem.

LIMBONG: Horowitz says the silver lining in all this is that it did spark a conversation about suicide. She says the best way to prevent a young person from killing themselves is for an adult to ask them about it directly. Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

KELLY: And we want to add this. If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, help is available online at suicidepreventionlifeline.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.