In response to the criticism of 13 Reasons Why‘s graphic portrayal of suicide, sexual assault, bullying and substance abuse, Netflix has announced that the second season of the series will incorporate tools based on the findings of a study by Northwestern University’s Center of Media and Human Development.
The multinational study, which spoke to more than 5,000 teens and parents in five countries, explored topics such as suicide, bullying, sexual assault and the resulting dialogue and attitude shifts among teens, parents and teachers around these and other difficult topics affecting today’s youth.
The study conducted by Northwestern endeavored to understand the role 13 Reasons Why had in prompting teen and parent conversations about tough topics, as well as the show’s effects on viewers’ attitudes and behaviours towards them.
Key findings from the study include that 78 per cent to 88 per cent of teen and young adult viewers across all regions reported that they tried to be more considerate about how they treated others after watching the Netflix show.
Additionally, the study reported that “more than half of teens reached out to someone to apologize for how they had treated them, and nearly three-quarters of teens said they tried to be more considerate about how they treated others after watching the show.”
Northwestern’s study found that the show prompted conversations about difficult issues and 71 per cent of teens found 13 Reasons Why relatable.
Teens also reported talking about a range of important topics after watching the show, including steps you can take if you are being bullied (45 per cent to 54 per cent) or feeling depressed (42 per cent to 59 per cent), how to spot the signs of mental health concerns (41 per cent to 55 per cent) and how to know if someone is suffering from depression (47 per cent to 67 per cent).
In response to the backlash from the first season, Netflix added warning cards and crisis hotlines to the series.
In a Global News video exclusive, courtesy of Netflix and Northwestern, Michele Selene Ang, who plays Courtney Crimsen in the series, reads a letter from a fan who explains how her character impacted her life.
“Since 13 Reasons Why was released last year, letters have poured in from all over the world. Today, Michele Selene Ang reads one of these letters,” the screen reads at the beginning of the video.
“I was very nervous because we had all come together to create this passion project that we all believed in but we had literally no idea how it would be received. So to be able to conversate with all the different fans of the show that have come up to me and said ‘thank you so much, I am struggling with my sexuality and what I’m going through,’ Selene Ang says.
She continues: “I’ve had a number of Asian girls, for example, come up and say that they feel very connected and represented and that means the world to me.”
Selene Ang is handed a letter and begins to read it. “I am so incredibly thankful to everyone involved in 13 Reasons Why, for depicting each of the issues involved in the story in a truly realistic manner that has and will continue to help address such difficult points of discussion.”
The person who wrote the letter said she can identify with Hannah Baker’s character and that they often turned to self-harm as a way to cope.
“I am so thankful to have stopped myself as I have been able to see and experience such greatness in the years after these dark times,” Ang reads.
“You seamlessly incorporated common — unfortunately — issues that teenagers face in this day and age and have raised awareness for how careful we need to be with each other. Your show is truly encouraging for those suffering from depression or bullying, as well as rape victims. I believe it will assist those suffering to come forward and address these issues those they trust,” the letter concludes.
“For the fans of the show, thank you for being part of this conversation. I feel like, together, we can truly make a difference,” Ang says.
Netflix has also established a discussion guide at 13ReasonsWhy.info, which includes advice from mental health experts and contact information for crisis prevention centers and helplines. The after show Beyond the Reasons will also continue to explore themes of each episode, with help from “many actors, experts and educators.”
“The hope is that the steps we’re taking now will help support more meaningful conversations as Season 2 rolls out later this year,” said Netflix vice president of original series Brian Wright in the announcement. “We’ve seen in our research that teens took positive action after watching the series, and now — more than ever — we are seeing the power and compassion of this generation advocating on behalf of themselves and their peers.”
The second season of 13 Reasons Why is set to be released this year.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.