A Netflix Television Show, A Catalyst For Teenage Suicide?

Vendetta Mtunzi Avatar

Trigger warning: this article contains language about suicide that some readers may find disturbing.

A 15-year old girl died following reports that the teenager committed suicide. The father believes she did this under the influence of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why” and wants the show canceled as soon as possible.

John Herndon, the father of the teenager who took her own life recently told Radar Online, “I’m still completely disgusted”. The father went on to blame Selena Gomez who is believed to be the brains behind the show, financing it.

The father told the world that his daughter had been watching the series shortly before her death and he believed 13 Reasons Why was the trigger for her daughter’s suicide. He went on to say “Remember that there are teens out there that are in a little darker place and these could be your friends, sisters.

Indeed, it is true, some people are battling with depression and producing a show that will make them feel famous and glamourous for killing themselves triggers a lot. 13 Reasons Why, which is the most searched for series of 2017 on the internet has faced criticism but also some praise. There have been debates over how the show portrays teenage suicide as glamorous.

In Africa recently, young children from the age of eight have been known to commit suicide. With the increased access to technology and the internet, a lot of children around the world are watching the show and it could have a bad influence on them.

For those who haven’t watched the show, it tells the story of a teenage girl named Hannah Baker and the bullying she endured in high school who later takes her own life. She does this after recording a set of tapes, one for each person in her life who contributed to the decision she made to kill herself.

A lot of teenagers fell in love with the show. The concerns about the show likely encouraging suicidal behaviour have been met with the claim that “it will educate the public” by the creators.

“Many parents have been concerned about the effects of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why for some time now” said one parent who indicated that they’ve banned their children from watching the show as it was disturbing.

Reports from parents claim that they hold the controversial show and its creators liable for the apparent uptick in teen suicide. The grieving father claims Netflix is being “hypocritical” in deciding which of its programs to discontinue and which to continue streaming.


  1. Tonderai

    While I sincerely appreciate the deep concern of Mr Herndon, I fail to see a direct causality between the show and the actions of his daughter. Sadly suicides occure more and more frequently across the world for various reasons (both known and unknown). To say the show, which I believe in itself was more informative and educational, was the aggravating cause of a suicide is a bit of a stretch. Perhaps it’s a case for increased age-rating of the show but in this age of torrents and information overload, it will still make its way to the younger viewers.

    1. Garikai

      I couldn’t agree more, blaming a show for his child’s death is banal. This is a classic fallacy because A follows B does not mean A causes B. The man probably missed classic signs of depression and now he is looking for something to blame. 13 reasons why is a chronicle of teenage life trying to recount events leading to a girls death by suicide.

    2. Tinashe Nyahasha

      I totally don’t agree Tonderai. The reason why billions are pored into television advertising is that it influences behaviour. Now imagine how suggestible a teenager is, imagine how a bullied teenager may relate to the plot, imagine how long an episode is compared to a commercial, imagine how long the whole season is, imagine how much more budget goes into the story telling of a television series as compared to a commercial….
      I had a classmate who committed suicide in high school and you can’t even imagine what the trigger was. When a highly emotional issue is at play, you can’t deduce causality in a logical manner

      1. L.S.M Kabweza

        I think the problem is simplifying everything. Let’s just ban this bad show.

        I think the show tackles a very important subject that clearly a lot of teenagers face. Bullying is such a big issue even in Zimbabwe, it topped Google Search results this year.
        Yes, it is possible that depending on someone’s mental state, it could trigger suicide. But that’s the point, depending on someone’s mental state, a lot of things can trigger suicide. The show actually focuses on this unintentional triggers issue, and I think in a very positive way. It is equally possible a suicidal teenager was saved by the show.

        I’m not a mental health expert but I think the calls to ban the show are just too simplistic and fail to realise the roots of most mental health problems are bigger than a Netflix TV show.

        1. Forest

          The problem with people defending the show is shunning the idea of helping people with mental health issues and going after the people who want something to be done about it. This is not a good show. Good for the “informative” stance that people keep taking in defence, but not good for the adverse effects it contributes to.

          I think another reason people defend the show is the gratification they get from watching things with violence, like rape, suicide and bullying. I imagine this is also an influence on people wanting to defend the show and keep it going for seasons. That’s the ugly side of this show. People can hide under the guise of “information” where all there is is the gratification of watching the most vile human behaviour on screen. It makes me sick to the stomach.

        2. tinm@n

          The problem, specifically for the USA, is that young people are very impressionable. The controversy is not new. It is a fairly old show and the issues raised about it are not new.

          Psychologists, educators and parents did raise the issue. The suicide(s) validate(s) their concerns.

          Just like school shootings, serial killings, choking game(getting a kick out of asphyxiation)… the trend is how impressionable Americans are and how they become numb to the gravity of death.

          Consider even that couple that agreed to take a video of a stunt where the woman attempts to shoot the man while he’s holding a book….all for YouTube hits….he died. That wasnt the plan, but the point is how removed they are from the reality of death, which is what 13 Reasons Why does for children, who are even more impressionable, moreso being American children.

          A different demography may be less concerning.

  2. Joseph

    It’s a simple and sad case of where one thing has perceived positive and negaive effects the sad thing being that you cannot quantify the benefits and disadvantages. I personally feel suicidal thoughts go beyond the influence of a single TV show.

    1. Tinashe Nyahasha

      Please see my response to Tonderai above