'13 Reasons Why': Netflix removes controversial suicide scene from first series

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Katherine Langford, Devin Druid in 13 Reasons Why S2 (Netflix)

Two years after teen drama 13 Reasons Why debuted on Netflix, its most contentious scene has been removed from the streaming service.

The show, which revolves around the suicide of a teenage girl and the confessional tapes she leaves behind for her friends, originally featured a graphic depiction of her death but that scene has now been removed on the advice of medical experts.

Launched in March 2017, the first season faced criticism from mental health advocates for "glorifying" suicide, triggering an apparent increase in online searches in the subject. Netflix initially responded by adding warning cards and crisis hotline numbers to the show, based on Jay Asher’s 2007 novel of the same name, ahead of the launch of season two in 2018.

Showrunner Brian Yorkey refuted the study that linked the show with an increase in online searches around suicide, but now the graphic scene has been removed.

"We've heard from many young people that 13 Reasons Why encouraged them to start conversations about difficult issues like depression and suicide and get help — often for the first time," Netflix said in a statement made available to The Hollywood Reporter.

Dylan Minnette, Netflix VP, Original Content Cindy Holland, Exec. Producer Brian Yorkey, Katherine Langford and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos seen at Netflix '13 Reasons Why' Premiere. (Photo by Steve Cohn/Invision for Netflix/AP Images)

"As we prepare to launch season three later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. So on the advice of medical experts, including Dr. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we've decided with creator Brian Yorkey and the producers to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from season one."

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Appearing midway through the first season, the scene in question showed Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) looking into the mirror, before climbing into the bath and taking her life in unflinching detail, while water spills from the tub. The scene has a voiceover from co-star Dylan Minnette talking to his school counsellor about Hannah, and then her body is discovered by her mother.

The new version of the scene cuts from Hannah looking in the mirror to her mother finding the body.

The impending launch of a third season of the show this summer was expected to attract a new audience who would discover the scene all over again, so Netflix decided to cut it completely.

Derek Luke, Alisha Boe in 13 Reasons Why (Netflix)

"It was our hope, in making 13 Reasons Why into a television show, to tell a story that would help young viewers feel seen and heard, and encourage empathy in all who viewed it, much as the best-selling book did before us," Yorkey, who also serves as showrunner, said in a statement Tuesday.

"Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in season one was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it. But as we ready to launch season three, we have heard concerns about the scene from Dr. Christine Moutier at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and others, and have agreed with Netflix to re-edit it. No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. We believe this edit will help the show do the most good for the most people while mitigating any risk for especially vulnerable young viewers."

The mental health advocates who called for Netflix to review the show applauded the decision to remove the scene.

The American Association of Suicidology, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American School Counselor Association, Dr. Helen Hsu from Stanford, advocacy group Mental Health America, the Trevor Project and Dr. Rebecca Hedrick from Cedars-Sinai issued a statement that read: "We support the decision to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from 13 Reasons Why. There has been much debate about the series in the medical community. But this positive change will ensure that 13 Reasons Why continues to encourage open conversation about mental health and suicide prevention — while also mitigating the risk for the most vulnerable teenage viewers."

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