Graphic suicide scene shows ‘need warnings’
As father of three Chris Turton watched The Gloaming on TV he started shouting at the screen "somebody help her".
The drama series' first episode was portraying a teenage girl's graphic suicide. Mr Turton began reliving the trauma of his son Daniel killing himself in July last year.
Mr Turton found his 17-year-old boy, who had used the same method depicted in the Stan program.
Daniel died in Northern Beaches Hospital a week later.
"It certainly wasn't evident as we started watching the program that suicide was going to be involved and be so, so graphic," Mr Turton, 55, told The Sunday Telegraph.
"Anybody who has been touched by suicide, either first-hand or otherwise, is very sensitive to those kind of triggers.
"It could also be a lot more impactful for a young mind, as indeed any in a graphic scene of violence or sex would be very disturbing."
The M-rated TV series contained no warning of suicidal themes, only supernatural themes and violence.
Mr Turton said the M-rated 2018 film A Star is Born has a similarly traumatic scene, but the movie only mentions "mature themes".
Daniel's sister Maddy, 22, had a similar experience with the 2021 film Music, which had no warning of self-harming content.
"It was all very kind and bubbly in the trailer but it ended up being a very heavy film with a lot of very kind of distressing themes," she said.
"I had a meltdown and had to leave the cinema.
"I went into a bit of a panic attack and I kind of lost control physiologically.
"And I cried and sobbed and, you know, my memory went weird, but then it kind of had a lasting effect of I was angry that it had even been brought up in the film."
Ms Turton said she is struggling to understand why they can't put censorship warnings at the beginning of the film, offering "perhaps it's an issue with spoilers".
Ms Turton said she had unsuccessfully tried to get Daniel to avoid Netflix teen drama 13 Reasons Why, which sparked controversy in 2017 with its suicidal themes.
Netflix had "suicide themes" in the consumer advisory for the MA-rated series, as well as a warning filmed with the cast that played ahead of the program.
Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister for Mental Health and Suicide Prevention David Coleman this week wrote to the Classification Board for their advice on the classification of suicide content.
"We need to look at all steps that can be taken in addressing this extremely important issue," Mr Coleman said.
"Being unexpectedly exposed to imagery or content that deals with suicide can be very distressing."
Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said "this is a highly distressing situation for anyone, and my heart goes out to the Turton family".
"A review on our classification system was conducted in 2020, and the government will have more to say on the outcomes of this in due course," Mr Fletcher said.
Psychiatrist and Orygen executive director Professor Pat McGorry said the idea of warnings is a good one, but said we needed to ensure we don't censor discussion of suicide.
Whether "suicide" or "suicidal themes" are mentioned at the start of a program is largely at the discretion of the broadcaster.
"Suicide is assessed under the classifiable element of themes and where suicide is specifically the focus or primary concern of the film, consumer advice of 'suicide' or 'suicidal themes' may be used," an Australian Communications and Media Authority spokesman said.
For free-to-air television, ratings "advice can be customised at the broadcaster's discretion to provide information about particular types of impactful content, such as suicide," he said.
Last year Netflix added advisories like "suicide," "self harm," and "sexual violence" to the standard set of terms that most services use.
A Netflix spokeswoman declined to comment.
Stan and Amazon Prime did not respond to requests for comment.
Originally published as Graphic suicide scene shows 'need warnings'