Editor's note: The below story discusses suicide, and suicidal ideation.
13 Reasons Why has been a controversial show ever since it first hit Netflix in March 2017. And while the series certainly brings awareness to some very real issues many teenagers face in their day-to-day lives, such as depression and suicide, it has also sparked a lot of debate about the effects of displaying potentially triggering scenes to a young and vulnerable audience. Now, as Netflix gears up for Season 3, the streaming platform has decided to go back and edit Hannah's graphic suicide scene from Season 1, per the advice of medical professionals.
"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 said in a statement on Tuesday (July 16). "As we prepare to launch Season 3 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 of 13 Reasons Why to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1."
As it stands right now, the unedited version of the nearly three-minute-long scene is no longer available to view on Netflix. Going forward, those who watch the episode will notice it's been replaced with a much shorter scene — one that doesn't show the graphic details of Hannah's death, but instead cuts immediately from her crying in the mirror to her parents' heartbreaking reaction.
Still, the show's creator, Brian Yorkey, wants fans and critics alike to understand that the original scene was not intended to cause any harm. "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 best-selling book did before us," he said. "Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in season one was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it."
Yorkey then went on to explain why they came to the conclusion that they did, and ultimately, it was decided that the scene in question wasn't worth the risk and wasn't essential to the show's overarching message. "As we ready to launch season three, 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," Yorkey explained. "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 help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers."
In the past, showrunners have made some changes after receiving public backlash, but not to this extent. About a month after the series premiered, Netflix added a warning card before the very first episode. Since then, the streaming platform added more warning cards, alerting viewers of any triggering content beforehand. And prior to the premiere episode of Season 2, some of the show's stars appeared on the screen reminding viewers that 13 Reasons Why is a fictional series while urging them to seek help if they need it. The show's website, 13reasonswhy.info, also lists several resources for people who are struggling themselves.
Overall, editing Hannah's death out of Season 1 is just another way to ensure that the show is helping its audience, rather than displaying controversial and graphic scenes that could have severe implications on their health. And so far, the decision has been extremely well-received. The American Association of Suicidology, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association, Dr. Helen Hsu of Stanford University, advocacy group Mental Health America, the Trevor Project, and Dr. Rebecca Hedrick of Cedars-Sinai released a joint statement: "We support the decision to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from 13 Reasons Why. There has been much debate about the series in the medical community. But this positive change will ensure that 13 Reasons Why continues to encourage open conversation about mental health and suicide prevention — while also mitigating the risk for the most vulnerable teenage viewers."
If you or someone you know is struggling with their emotional health, head to halfofus.com for ways to get help.