A Colorado school district which recently had an astonishing seven students commit suicide temporarily pulled the book 13 Reasons Why from their school libraries, on the basis that the book may make suicide appealing, CBS News reported.
The book, which inspired a recent popular Netflix series, follows a teenage girl who commits suicide in order to show her classmates how they wronged her. Both the book and the show have been accused of portraying suicide in a trivial and overly romantic way.
"It would be hard for anybody who has dealt with suicide to not have a heightened awareness of things, to perhaps be a little more cautious about things," said Leigh Grasso, the curriculum director for Mesa County Valley School District, the Colorado district that pulled the book.
Librarians, however, complained that banning the book was censorship. The ban was rescinded only three hours after it went into effect, when school administrators determined tha the book was not as graphic as the Netflix show.
As Oxygen has previously reported, copycat suicides are a very real fear among mental health advocates, and initial studies suggest that they can have an adverse impact on suicide rates, though it isn’t clear if fictional depictions of suicide carry the same risk.
But advocates take this threat so seriously that the American Foundation for Suicide provides recommendations to journalists when they are working on articles about suicide in order to minimize the contagion effect from these articles. These recommendations include avoiding sensationalism, refraining from reporting on the contents of the deceased’s suicide note, and recognizing that suicide usually has multiple causes—all advice, arguably, the book and series does not follow.