A scene from 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix series that deals with suicide and depression.
Netflix is under attack from Australian experts for failing to add local helplines at the end of its most controversial programs, including 13 Reasons Why which portrays a young girl’s suicide.
Child psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg says US popstar Selena Gomez, an executive producer of 13 Reasons Why, has “blood on her hands” for the “dreadful” way in which the show streaming on Netflix portrays suicide.
His criticism comes as Netflix continues to reject requests from Australian mental health groups to retrofit shows with support numbers at the end of each episode.
Dr Carr-Greg said 13 Reasons Why violated every rule on the portrayal of suicide.
“Probably 75 per cent of kids who watch it, there will be no impact, but I’m worried about the ones who have pre-existing vulnerabilities,” he said, after watching every episode.
“A bloke in Canberra told me that his daughter had watched the 13 Reasons Why without his knowledge and she had to be rushed to hospital because she tried to take her own life.”
The series has been widely criticised for glamorising suicide, with US researchers reporting that suicide-related searches were 19 per cent higher than expected in the days following the premiere.
Ms Gomez has defended the series, saying the graphic content was “real” and “honest”, but Dr Carr-Gregg rubbished those claims.
Singer and actress Selena Gomez is one of the executive producers of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Photo: HRC
“I think she’s already got the blood of a number of kids on her hands so I those reasons are absolutely crap,” he said.
“If one kid kills themselves as a result of watching this show, then she’s got blood on her hands and the reality is that instead of educating and informing, it has exploited the vulnerabilities of young people in the most dreadful way.”
The drama is among a host of Netflix-created dramas that target young people, and explore difficult subjects such as eating disorders (To the Bone) and autism (Atypical).
Netflix has also rejected requests from the Butterfly Foundation, which supports people with eating disorders, to add localised help information at the end of To the Bone.
In a meeting with Netflix, the Butterfly Foundation asked it to adhere to Mindframe’s Guidelines for the portrayal of eating disorders. But apart from trigger warnings at the start of the film, there are still no Australian support numbers at the end.
Christine Morgan, chief executive of the foundation, said visual portrayals of eating disorders could trigger harmful behaviour and there was a strong need for helpline information.
“The response from Netflix has been disappointing because I believe it could have adopted a more responsible approach to screening the film,” she said.
“It wasn’t as though Netflix was unaware of the triggering nature of the content of their film, they chose not to support all of Butterfly’s requests.”
Professor Jane Burns, a youth mental health expert and the mother of an autistic child, said she also has concerns about the portrayal of autism in Netflix’s series Atypical.
“The issues raised are complex, difficult to portray with empathy and without context, triggering and potentially dangerous,” she said.
“Entertainment is just that, entertainment – but the opportunity to use this popular culture as a myth-buster and really explore the power and the potential of the human psyche is often missed in cliche and story lines that leave the viewer at best lost and at worst in deep despair.”
Netflix and other streaming services are not regulated and they do not appear to be bound to an industry code of conduct.
Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, said the Butterfly Foundation’s request was reasonable, especially because Netflix created and streamed these controversial shows.
“They have a responsibility to put more information out there, help seeking information,” she said.
“The best way to stave off regulation would be to do the right thing and provide the protections and that shouldn’t be a heavy lift.”
Fairfax Media did not receive comment from Netflix or Gomez before deadline. Lifeline 131114Beyondblue 1300224636
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