The show has been a source of controversy among suicide prevention and parent groups since it premiered in 2017
The controversial suicide scene in the finale of 13 Reasons Why season 1 is no longer available to viewers in its original form.
The Netflix series’ creator Brian Yorkey decided to “edit” the scene after seeking the “advice of medical experts,” the streaming giant says in a statement to PEOPLE on Monday.
“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’s statement says.
“As we prepare to launch Season 3 later this summer, we’ve been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show,” the statement continues. “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 1.”
The scene, which takes place part way through the finale episode in the first season, no longer includes footage of Hannah, played by actress Katherine Langford, dying by suicide. Instead, the scene goes from Hannah looking at herself in a mirror to her parents’ reaction to her death.
“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 says in a statement to PEOPLE.
“Our creative intent in portraying the ugly, painful reality of suicide in such graphic detail in Season 1 was to tell the truth about the horror of such an act, and make sure no one would ever wish to emulate it,” he continues.
“But as we ready to launch Season 3, 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,” he adds. “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 American Association of Suicidology also worked with Netflix on the decision.
“Our ongoing conversations with Netflix suggest that they are listening to feedback from the suicide prevention community about what works and doesn’t work in their programming,” says Jonathan Singer, PhD, LCSW, AAS President and Associate Professor in the School of Social Work at Loyla University Chicago. “Some will say that Netflix’s actions are too little too late. I believe that it is never too late to do the right thing in suicide prevention. There are thousands of suicide prevention expert members of AAS who are willing and able to provide consultation to Netflix and other media companies around issues of suicide. We look forward to continuing to work with them, with individual creators, and the entertainment industry to help solidify and strengthen the standards of depicting suicide and related risks in popular content.”
Yorkey has previously spoken about the graphic scene, saying similarly that suicide was meant to be portrayed as something that no one would want to mimic in real life.
“We wanted to confront the fact that suicide is messy, ugly and it’s incredibly painful,” he told The Hollywood Reporter before it initially aired. “There’s nothing peaceful or beautiful about it at all. It’s horrific to endure and it’s horrific for the people that a person who commits suicide leaves behind. We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch.”
Despite positive critical reviews, the show has also received backlash since it premiered in 2017 for its graphic portrayal of suicide, sexual assault, substance abuse and bullying.
But suicide prevention groups are now voicing their support in Netflix’s decision to edit the scene.
“We support the decision to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from 13 Reasons Why,” the groups — which included the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the Trevor Project — say in a joint statement to PEOPLE. “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.”
The American Association of Suicidology, the American School Counselor Association, Dr. Helen Hsu of Stanford, Mental Health America and Dr. Rebecca Hedrick of Cedars-Sinai hospital all signed the statement as well.
A month after the show first premiered, Netflix announced that it would increase the trigger warnings “as an extra precaution,” The Hollywood Reporter reported at the time. The streamer also beefed up its online resources as it launched season 2. 13ReasonsWhy.info provides informational videos featuring cast members and crisis hotlines.
The third season of 13 Reasons Why is expected to be released later this year.