In a tragic case of life imitating art, 23-year-old Peruvian Franco Alonso Lazo Medrano committed suicide and, just as did the main character in the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, left behind audio tapes made for those he claimed caused him to take his own life.
Peruvian news outlet Diario Clarin reported that Medrano shouted "I can’t stand the heartbreak," then leaped from his fourth story balcony as his mother watched in horror.
He survived the fall but died later at San Juan de Dios hospital. Two suicide notes were left behind, one addressed to "Claudia" and the other containing a list of names Medrano made recordings for on his computer.
Though it remains to be determined whether Medrano was really inspired by the Netflix drama, his actions bear an eerie similarity to its plot line. In the show, protagonist Hannah Baker leaves 13 cassette recordings retelling how each person contributed to her suicide.
Even before Medrano's death, mental health organizations were worried the show’s vivid depictions of suicide could trigger those who struggled with suicide and depression.
Aislinn Paul, who starred in the realistic teen soap Degrassi, lashed out at the series, tweeting "I can't get it out of my mind so I have to say, I think 13 Reasons Why discusses teen suicide & depression in an unhelpful & unhealthy way."
I can't get it out of my mind so I have to say, I think 13 Reasons Why discusses teen suicide & depression in an unhelpful & unhealthy way.— Aislinn Paul (@aislinnpaul) April 26, 2017
But if it made you feel worse, misunderstood, isolated, or triggered in any way, please reach out for help! @KidsHelpPhone: 1(800) 668-6868— Aislinn Paul (@aislinnpaul) April 26, 2017
The show's producer, Selena Gomez, has defended the show, calling it "real" and "honest," while Netflix stated "we will add an additional viewer warning card before the first episode as an extra precaution for those about to start the series and have also strengthened the messaging and resource language in the existing cards for episodes that contain graphic subject matter."
Igniting 'copycat' suicides?
"Copycat" suicides are known to be a contagious phenomenon and can occur from time to time, as pointed out by Scientific American.
While the causes for such phenomenon should be taken seriously, the link between works of fiction and suicide remain unclear. Such controversy has existed as far back as Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliette and will continue when future works delve into the subject of suicide.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).