Suicide In the Spotlight: Netflix Series “13 Reasons Why” Draws Varied Opinions from Christians

Image of a woman siiting curled up on the ground
Image: iStock

A streamed Netflix series dramatizing the fictional story of a teen’s suicide has drawn disparate reactions from secular and Christian sectors in the U.S. and abroad as the show’s popularity continues strong.

Netflix strengthened viewer warnings May 1 regarding the content of the series, “13 Reasons Why,” after cries of possible “suicide contagion” and the glamorization of suicide spilled from religious, educational and clinical sectors within the U.S. and as far away as Australia and New Zealand. Conversely, others have said the series that debuted March 31 opens the airways for honest discussion of suicide’s causes and prevention.

The latest commentary on the show includes today’s (May 2) podcast from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary President R. Albert Mohler, who gives a biblical worldview he said Christians must remember.

“There are very legitimate concerns about this program, and Christian parents and young persons should be very very aware of the danger represented by any kind of glorification or rationalization of suicide,” Mohler said on The Briefing, his daily news analysis and commentary at “The Christian worldview based in the Scripture is not merely concerned about what might be a virus or a contagion of suicide but rather, about the issue of suicide itself, that’s deeply rooted in the sanctity of life ethic and our understanding that every single human life is a gift of a sovereign and benevolent Creator.”

Julia Jeffress Sadler, girls ministry director at First Baptist Church in Dallas, finds “overwhelming accuracy” in the storyline that “depicts the struggles many of our teenagers are facing.”

Sadler, a licensed professional counselor specializing in treatment of conditions including self-harm, said in the April 26th issue of the Southern Baptist TEXAN that juxtaposed to many reasons not to watch the series is the value of its depiction of truth. A prevailing “victim mentality” causes individuals to let others ruin their lives, Sadler said.

“In evaluating 13 Reasons Why, we must remember the reason it is a hit show: Countless numbers of people are hurting and tempted to commit suicide every minute,” Sadler wrote. “We must stop letting other people ruin and even take our lives. We must open our eyes to the nationwide epidemic and reality of suicide.”

Based on Jay Asher’s 2007 book by the same name, the 13-episode series features high school student Hannah Baker, who documents her emotions and personal struggles in advance of killing herself, and arranges for the tapes to be delivered to those whom she blames for her actions. The series graphically tackles the issues of rape, sex and drug abuse, while its timeline gives the illusion that Baker is speaking from the grave.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
Diana Chandler