Parents have been warned to prepare for the release of a highly controversial Netflix series — 13 Reasons Why season three, which comes out today.

The overall show confronts teen suicide, rape and depression and now the Mental Health Foundation have advised parents on how to approach discussing explicit themes which could be harmful to young viewers.

Since 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix two years ago, some critics and social scientists have said the popular teen series glorified suicide and put impressionable young people at risk.

Netflix has since edited out the graphic suicide scene featuring season one's main character Hannah Baker.


It was heavily criticised for depicting graphic rape and suicide scenes, while having no ratings classification.

Bryce Walker, the series villain, played by Justin Prentice. Photo / Supplied.
Bryce Walker, the series villain, played by Justin Prentice. Photo / Supplied.

After it was released, the Office of Film and Literature Classification created an RP18 rating, which meant teenagers had to watch it with a parent or guardian.

Although it looks like season three has less of a focus on suicide, the Mental Health Foundation wanted parents to understand the risk in case their children watched the drama or found out about its explicit themes in the school yard.

"Be aware that your kids are likely to be watching this get involved with conversations with them. Watch it with them or watch it yourself so you have an idea of what they are viewing. That also means thinking about season one or two because when a new season is produced... it leads to interest in re-watching the earlier series," Mr Robinson said.

Mr Robinson highlighted a study in the US which found a connection between a spike in teen suicide and the popularity of the show which resulted in more than 100 deaths.

RNZ approached Netflix for comment, but they did not respond.

The media giant had previously defended the show and said it encouraged people to ask for help and have conversations about difficult issues - often for the first time.

Voices of Hope co-founder Jazz Thornton agreed and said, sadly, the show was a representation of high schools around the world and this generation refused to use their inside voices.


"Teenagers are the ones who are getting really frustrated and they want to talk about these things. Mental health and suicide is one of the biggest things they face. The reality is they are the ones who are losing their friends, their siblings to suicide. Therefore, they are going to be the ones that want to talk about it and want to see change."

However, Mr Robinson was not convinced and said the series should have never been made in the first place.

"We have to do better than that. If it actually costs 125 lives to create conversations, then that is not an effective suicide strategy so I don't buy what Netflix is saying about anything positive at all."

About one in 20 people are in a significant suicidal state at any one time, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

Mr Robinson said it was important for parents to research the show and openly discuss its themes with their children.

RNZ spoke to several teenagers aged 15-17 about whether they would watch the show.

The response was mixed, with the majority saying they would, and would likely want to watch it alone. Another said he wasn't interested because of intense themes it touched on. One said she found the previous seasons confronting, so would be viewing it with her mother this time around.

Chief Censor David Shanks has spoken with Netflix about season three of the show, and was given an opportunity to assess it ahead of the release to New Zealand audiences.

Following his assessment, he has agreed with Netflix that this season will carry the same rating of R18 and warning note as for previous seasons.

"The launch of this new season may well have some people going back to watch the series from the beginning. So again parents and caregivers should be aware of this.

"Overall the content of this new series, if assessed on its own, would likely merit a lower classification, such as an RP16. But there is a significant range of themes and issues covered that could impact on viewers in different ways, depending on their situation and experiences," Mr Shanks said.

The launch of this season was a chance for adults in a young person's life to talk to them about what they are watching, and to ideally watch this series along with them, he said.


If you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, the best place to get help is your GP or local mental health provider. However, if you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call police immediately on 111.


LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 or 09 5222 999 within Auckland (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633 ,free text 234 or email or online chat.
NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 (available 24/7)
KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
SAMARITANS – 0800 726 666.