Two 15-year-old girls took their own lives days apart after watching the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, their anguished families claim.
Bella Herndon and Priscilla Chiu were just normal teenage girls, struggling to find their way and sensitive to the usual intense emotions of inching toward adulthood.
Both hung themselves in their Northern California bedrooms in April, not long after watching the entire first season of 13 Reasons Why, a serial about a high school student who commits suicide and leaves audio recordings for 13 people she blames for pushing her to the edge.
“Three days before she died, she told her friends that she had just watched the show," Bella’s father, John Herndon, told InsideEdition.com Thursday. “It just plunged her into this dark sadness."
Peter Chiu, Priscilla's uncle, said his niece was dealing with depression.
“I think the show planted a seed in her,” he said. “I found out later that she had watched the show just days before she died.”
Bella’s mother discovered her daughter’s body, hanging in her bedroom closet. “I heard her scream my name,” Bella’s dad said. “I’ll never forget that. I ran upstairs and she was trying to hold [Bella] up. I just said, 'No, no, no, oh God, no.'"
Priscilla’s 17-year-old brother discovered her body. Unlike Bella, she did not leave a note. She had been experiencing difficulties at school over a boy she was seeing, her uncle said.
“I tried to talk to her,” he said. “She would have her good days and her bad days.”
Producers of the Netflix series include pop star Selena Gomez, who said earlier this year that the show’s goal was to help teens by showing that suicide should never be an option.
Facing a backlash from parents, mental health advocates and school officials, Netflix announced in May it was toughening and adding more warnings to episodes and providing suicide prevention hotlines on its website.
"Our hearts go out to these families during this difficult time," Netflix said in a statement. “We have heard from many viewers that 13 Reasons Why has opened up a dialogue among parents, teens, schools and mental health advocates around the intense themes and difficult topics depicted in the show."
“She was 15,” Priscilla’s uncle said. “Their brains aren’t even developed. She made a rash decision. In my heart, I believe that Netflix deliberately marketed teens for this show.”