13 Reasons Why: Censors make new RP18 rating for controversial Netflix show
New Zealand censors have created a new rating for Netflix show 13 Reasons Why that allows teens to watch the controversial show provided they have parental guidance.
American drama 13 Reasons Why deals with the suicide of a teen and also depicts sexual assault.
It has been criticised for showing the method by which a character kills herself - a practice strongly discouraged by mental health organisations because it can encourage copycat behaviour. Some aspects of the show have been praised, however, including positive messaging around consent and sexual violence, and the way it raises awareness of youth mental health.
The New Zealand Classification Office has given the show an RP18 rating, which means someone under 18 years old must view the series with the supervision of a parent or guardian.
In its decision, the office said the show's "portrayal of suicide and its aftermath in the series poses a real risk for teens who may be struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts.
"So it is essential for young people to be able to discuss the show with at least one responsible adult in their lives."
However, censors did not give the 13 Reasons a straight R16 or R18 rating because it raises issues that are relevant to teens, and it did not want to prevent them watching and learning from it.
The classification decision was made after discussing the series with teens aged 14 to 18. Deputy chief censor Jared Mullen said the young people he talked to had found the show to be a realistic reflection of their experiences.
"All the teens we spoke to felt the show addressed issues that were relevant to them, and that the series overall had positive messages relating to social awareness: treating others with respect and compassion, and raising awareness about suicide, sexual violence, bullying, and other issues," he said.
However, he was concerned that without parental guidance teens might take the wrong message away from the show, thinking it glorified suicide.
"These issues need to be talked about in a way that is informed and safe – parents, guardians and other adults need to have open conversations with teens about the issues raised by the show.
"Parents should use their judgement about whether their teen is ready to watch this show and then watch it with them. The series raises a lot of issues but often fails to fully address them, and it's really important that trusted adults can step in at that point," Mullen said.
13 Reasons Why is classified RP18 with the following warning note: "Series deals with suicide, bullying and depression. Episodes may contain violence, sexual material, drug use, and frequent offensive language. Some episodes contain graphic depictions of suicide and rape".
WHERE TO GET HELP
The Mental Health Foundation's free Resource and Information Service (09 623 4812) will refer callers to some of the helplines below:
* Suicide Crisis Helpline (open 24/7) – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO). This is a service for people who may be thinking about suicide, or those who are concerned about family or friends.
* Kidsline (open 24/7) – 0800 543 754. This service is for children aged 5 to 18. Those who ring between 4pm and 9pm on weekdays will speak to a Kidsline buddy. These are specially trained teenage telephone counsellors.
* Your local Rural Support Trust – 0800 787 254 (0800 RURAL HELP)