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'13 Reasons Why' Writer Defends 'Painful' Depiction of Suicide

Moviefone logo Moviefone 4/20/2017 Stephanie Topacio Long

'13 Reasons Why' Writer Defends 'Painful' Depiction of Suicide: '13 Reasons Why' Writer Defends 'Painful' Depictio... © Image Attribution Unavailable '13 Reasons Why' Writer Defends 'Painful' Depictio... There are numerous reasons why "13 Reasons Why" has gotten a lot of love since it debuted, but there are also reasons why the Netflix series has inspired criticism.

The biggest has been concern that the show glamorizes teen suicide, an argument that Nic Sheff, one of the show's writers found "quite surprising." In an op-ed for Vanity Fair, he defended how the drama depicted the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), all the way through its agonizing end.

The subject matter hit particularly close to home for Sheff, who attempted suicide himself years ago. He felt it was important to show not just the decision, but the aftermath "with as much detail and accuracy as possible." This was important to him because understanding the reality of suicide was what saved him.

Sheff, who struggled with drug addiction at the time of his attempt, felt "complete and utter defeat." He gathered all the pills he had and began taking them with a bottle of whiskey. As he sat there doing it, though, he said he remembered the story of a woman he had met in rehab. She had tried to kill herself in the same way, only to end up in horrible pain and with serious injuries.

"The whole story came back to me in heightened detail," Sheff writes in his op-ed. "It was an instant reminder that suicide is never peaceful and painless, but instead an excruciating, violent end to all hopes and dreams and possibilities for the future."

That memory saved Sheff's life. He flushed the pills and forced himself to vomit.

With the experience that he had, Sheff wanted "13 Reasons Why" to "dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off." Doing so, he argues, will make people consider what will actually happen if they act on their plans.

"I'm proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations, because silence really does equal death," Sheff writes. "We need to keep talking, keep sharing, and keep showing the realities of what teens in our society are dealing with every day. To do anything else would be not only irresponsible, but dangerous."

It is hard to say what the right approach is. Mental health professionals have taken both sides, with some recommending that graphic descriptions of suicide be avoided, as the Chicago Tribune reports, and others actually serving as consultants on the series. Either way, though, Sheff is correct: The series has got people talking.

[via: Vanity Fair]

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