Parents need to know that 13 Reasons Why is an intense, dark Netflix drama based on the popular young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The first season explores the motivations that led Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a troubled teen, to die by suicide. We hear about the bullying, sexual assault, and other traumatic events in her life. Messages about compassion, empathy, and not taking others for granted are clear, but the fact that Hannah blames others for her suicide may send the wrong idea to sensitive teens. Hannah's suicide is shown in great detail in the original series (but was edited out by Netflix in 2019 on advice of suicide prevention experts and doctors), as is more than one graphic rape scene, including one that's extremely brutal and involves a mop. There's also teen drinking and lots of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," and "a--holes"). In the show's second season, the students of Liberty High continue to process Hannah's death while dealing with their own issues, including self-harm, more bullying, gun violence, and the pressure of testifying in a court case about Hannah. The third season is framed as a murder mystery with some main characters implicated, and also has an abortion storyline, steroid use, and immigration issues. The fourth and final season sees a main character die of AIDS, after being homeless and a sex worker, while another deals with serious mental health issues like PTSD.
While this challenging story can help families start useful conversations about issues like bullying, sexual assault, and depression, the way these issues are addressed go against the advice of many mental health experts and may be confusing for some viewers, especially younger ones. To this end, Netflix has added trigger warnings to episodes that contain especially graphic or disturbing content, as well as brief videos with cast members stating that kids already at risk for depression and other mental health issues may not want to watch the show. Netflix account holders are able to set a PIN code for this series (or for any mature show) that will be required before others can view.