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Netflix beefs up warnings on '13 Reasons Why' after outrage

Additional and tougher warnings will caution viewers on the show's graphic depiction of suicide, rape and bullying.


Katherine Langford plays the fictional Hannah Baker, who is already dead when the show begins.

Beth Dubber/Netflix

The controversial show about teen suicide that's sparked millions of tweets is getting new and stronger content warnings.

The move is the latest in the back and forth about the Netflix original program "13 Reasons Why" and comes in a response to backlash and concern about the show's suitability for young viewers. All of the show's 13 episodes, which start after Hannah Baker's recent suicide, were released March 31.

Netflix released a statement Monday promising to "add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode." It has also "strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter, including the URL"

Mental health groups in Australia have reported increased calls and emails since the program's launch. Last month, New Zealand's classification body ruled that Netflix would have to display a clear warning for the entire series as well as individual episodes, branding it with the region's first RP18 rating. The new classification, created for the show, recommends people under the age of 18 watch the program only under the supervision of a parent or guardian.

In the US, school districts have sent letters and emails to parents about the show.

"Suicide is a tough issue to talk about," Dr. Christina Conolly said in a CBS News story. She works in psychological services at Maryland's Montgomery County School District and helped write a letter that states "adolescents watching without an adult ... could be at increased risk of self-harm."

The school district in Austin, Texas, sent a similar notice to parents on Monday.

"The show sensationalizes serious themes, including drug use, sexual assault, bullying and suicide," the Austin Independent School District email states. "Even if your students are not watching the show, they may be hearing about it from their classmates. We would like to ask families to partner with us by checking in with your student about this series."

Unlike the Maryland school district's warning, however, the Austin notice downplays the possibility of suicide risk from viewing "13 Reasons Why."

"Watching the show does not mean that students are at risk for dangerous behaviors," Austin's school district said. "If your children are watching the show, we encourage you to watch it yourself or possibly watch it with them so you can discuss the topics it covers."

The New York-based Jed Foundation, which focuses on suicide prevention for adolescents, has posted talking points on "13 Reasons Why" on its website.

"Suicide is never a heroic or romantic act," one of the talking points reads. "Hannah's suicide (although fictional) is a cautionary tale, not meant to appear heroic and should be viewed as a tragedy."

"13 Reasons Why" is based on a 2007 novel by Jay Asher and follows a character named Clay as he listens to cassette tapes recorded by Hannah that detail the reasons for her recent suicide and pin the blame for her decision on others, including friends and classmates.

Originally published on May 1 at 10:53 p.m. PT.
Update, May 2 at 10:25 a.m. PT: Adds information from US schools.

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