The show quickly drew a mixed response - praise for opening up discussions on subjects like bullying, sexual assault, and suicide, as well as criticism for its failure to explicitly address mental illness and its role in suicide.
Creators of the show insisted that it was intended to be helpful in starting important discussions and helping teen viewers realize the silent suffering that their friends and acquaintances may be undergoing, as well as portraying the devastating impact of suicide on those around them.
But mental health experts warned when the show launched that the graphic depiction of Hannah's suicide violated several of the "Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide," a list of guidelines for media outlets developed by suicide prevention experts and journalists.
Dr. Jim Langley, a Catholic psychologist with St. Raphael Counseling in Denver, warned that Hannah's suicide in the show is romanticized in a way that could leave the wrong impression on vulnerable teens.
At the same time, he cautioned, the story fails to adequately address the impact mental health played in Hannah's decision to end her life.
"To some degree we all have responsibility to other people, but in some ways the show goes too far, and makes it sound like we have responsibility for the other person. We're responsible to the people in our lives, to treat them well. But the people who hurt (Hannah) were not responsible for her choosing to commit suicide," Langley told CNA shortly after the first season of 13 Reasons Why aired.
"Most people who commit suicide - almost everyone has a severe mental health problem. And the show does not portray this girl as having severe mental health problems in the way that somebody who is contemplating suicide almost always has," he said.
Critics also noted that the adults in the show are mostly portrayed as responding to Hannah's struggles in an inadequate and unhelpful manner. Hannah's parents, while loving, are largely absent and unaware of their daughter's suffering and negative experiences at school. The school counselor does not effectively respond to Hannah's thoughts of suicide.
These depictions could prevent young people from approaching adults with their concerns, believing that they will only be ignored, experts warned.
The second season of 13 Reasons Why, released last year, met with a less enthusiastic response by viewers. It follows the students at Hannah's school in the aftermath of her suicide, exploring issues including sexual assault, teen violence, and drug use. The third season of 13 Reasons Why is due out this summer.
Catholic psychologists and youth ministers have urged caution in watching the show, particularly for vulnerable teens or those who may not be well-formed.
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If you think you or a friend are struggling with suicidal thoughts, ask for help from someone you can trust and/or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (available 24 hours everyday). For Catholic counseling, contact your local priest, diocese or your local branch of Catholic Charities.