Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
/ Source: TODAY
By Ree Hines

It's a difficult-to-watch scene that caused controversy from the moment the first season of "13 Reasons Why" debuted on Netflix in March 2017 — a nearly three-minute-long scene that showed the character at the heart of the series die by suicide.

Some claimed the intimate, bloody imagery glamorized the act being portrayed, while others pointed to research that showed such scenes can have a suicide contagion effect in teens and young adults.

And now, more than two years after many mental health advocates called for the scene — or even the whole series — to be removed, the streaming giant has decided to make a change.

On Tuesday, the network tweeted a statement about the change.

"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," the statement read. "As we prepare to launch Season 3 later this summer, we've been mindful about the ongoing debate around the show. 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 of '13 Reasons Why' to edit the scene in which Hannah takes her own life from Season 1."

Netflix offered no reason for the length of time it took to reach that decision.

Back in April 2017, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute, told TODAY Parents that "Netflix has been completely unethical and irresponsible in putting this show on the air because it ignores decades' worth of research and public health policy on how we take care of teenagers in general, and how we take care of vulnerable teenagers."

In particular, Koplewicz noted, "Three decades ago, studies were done after there were four TV programs on the networks about teen suicides. About two weeks after the event, versus the two weeks before the show was seen on TV, there was a definite increase in both attempts and actual completions."

And according to other mental health professionals, "13 Reasons Why" has had a troubling impact.

Just last year, Dr. Brian P. Kurtz, a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, told TODAY Parents, "For those of us who see many young people in crisis — coming to the emergency department with suicidal ideation, for example — the fact that the show was on the mind of these patients and their families really jumped out at us. And this was across the country."

He also pointed to a survey of 14 pediatric emergency services published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that noted that 40 percent of those facilities reported seeing patients with suicidal behavior that imitated the show.

Katherine Langford portrays Hannah Baker in season one of Netflix's "13 Reasons Why."Beth Dubber/Netflix

The suicide scene, which took place during the first-season finale, has now been cut completely. Rather than the graphic portrayal of character Hannah Baker's death in a bathtub, she's now simply shown looking into the bathroom mirror before cutting to a later scene of her parents' painful discovery.

In a statement of his own, show creator Yorkey explained, "No one scene is more important than the life of the show, and its message that we must take better care of each other. 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."

In addition to announcing the change, Netflix provided fans with a link to resources for those struggling at 13reasonswhy.info.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text TALK to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.