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When Netflix gives young people 13 reasons to commit suicide, someone has to tell why they should stop.

 Image: Dreamstime (with licence)



This is what Eirin Eikefjord writes in a comment in BT.no. 

 

Werther effects

She talks in the post about a phenomenon that is well known in psychology and sociology, and which happened at the end of the 1700th century. It was the poet Goethe who went through a life crisis related to an unhappy love. 

He published the book "Young Werter's Disorders", in which the main character in the book committed suicide after having just experienced an unhappy love affair.





Eirin Eikefjord writes:

Goethe's goal was that history should help other unfortunate men through similar downturns. That's not how it went. 

"Young Werther's suffering" is said to have brought with it a wave of suicides, all over Europe. In retrospect, this phenomenon has been named "Werther effects": Suicide is contagious.





 

Current suicide upswings in Norway

She further writes:

243 years after young Werther shot himself, there are reports of suicide waves in several schools in Norway. Several suicides and suicide attempts among young people in LillehammerUnusually high incidence in Trondheim. In April, the municipal manager in Trondheim notified parents throughout the municipality.

Several young people with suicidal thoughts had said that they watched the Netflix series «13 Reasons Why», which premiered on March 31. The same thing happens in other countries.

Eirin Eikefjord then asks the obvious question: 

Could it be random?

 

13 Reasons Why

She refers to the series "13 Reasons Why", which deals with a suicide - and the thirteen reasons that the main character, Hannah Baker, gives for the suicide. 

"I'm about to tell you my life story. Or, more specifically, how my life ended, ”says High School student Hannah Baker.

One by one, friends and acquaintances receive a shoebox with cassettes. They hear a story about betrayal, abuse, rape - thirteen isolated incidents that made Hannah no longer strong.

The series has caused great concern among several suicide experts who fear a contagious effect, á la "Werther effect".

 

Many can identify with the main character

Eirin Eikefjord describes in a good way how the series thematizes issues that many young people can recognize themselves in, and which for young people can be perceived as overriding there and then.

And that is precisely why the main character may end up being an important role model for many young people who are struggling. Eikefjord writes:

Hannah Baker is a girl many young people can - and perhaps will - identify with. Treated unfairly. Well-meaning. Misunderstood.

She directs "the perfect suicide", and at the same time takes a cunning revenge on everyone who has treated her badly. In the series, suicide is glorified and presented as a smart, final solution.

 

The series violates all principles to avoid contagion

She also gives a very good point about how the media has worked to avoid the contagious effects of suicide. Eirin Eikefjord writes about the conditions at the angle of suicide that researchers warn against:

Romanticization. Identification. Focus on method. Sensational character. Presenting suicide as a solution.

"13 Reasons Why" sins against all this.

This is also elaborated by Anne Marita Milde, at RKBU West and the University of Bergen: 

The risk is reduced by presenting alternatives, but in the series the option is completely absent. Through harsh and dramatic means, suicide is presented as the only solution.

For vulnerable youth, this is extremely dangerous.

 

Presents suicide as a way to regain control

Many skeptics have had to admit that er something deeply problematic about the series "13 reasons why." Anne Marit Sletten tells in a post in Oppland Arbeiderblad that she herself was one of the skeptics that there was something in the criticism that has come against the series. She tells:

After all the suicides among young people in Lillehammer and Trondheim, I sat down and watched the Netflix series "13 reasons why". I wanted to see what made professionals believe that it inspires young people to take their own lives.

Despite her skepticism, she had to admit that something was amiss when she saw the series. But what? She tells:

The creator of the series has placed the drama on the outside of Hannah - with those who in various ways offended her. It is thus the feelings that suicide triggers in others, and the power she gains over them after her death, which is the series' driving force. Together with Hannah's strong narrator's voice, we are served a story in which suicide is simply a way to regain control.

That is problematic, concludes Anne Marie Sletten.

It's probably as wrong as it can get. As if taking your own life is a method you can use to get others to listen and understand. As if suicide is not primarily about a terribly lonely drama inside the main character. 

But Hannah is both listened to and understood. She gets in a sense the ultimate revenge. If one then disregards the fact that she is dead, which - quite objectively - after all is worst for her.

 

- Counterweight and nuances are needed

The conclusion in the above-mentioned post by Eirin Eikefjord is thought-provoking. She writes:

What is needed when "13 Reasons Why" allows itself to smoothly simplify an important societal problem is counterbalance and nuances.

When Netflix gives young people 13 reasons to commit suicide, someone has to tell why they should not.

She adds that the positive side of the story may be that the series will force us - society, parents, school, aid, friends, media - to talk more openly about over 500 people taking their lives in this country every year, and why it happens.

Here it can probably also be added that it seems to be high time that mental health seriously becomes a topic in school.

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