Netflix’s newest series “13 Reasons Why” helps taboo dialogue of suicide in Brazil


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-Article by Rebecca Giovannetti

Launched last March, the Netflix original series phenomenon 13 Reasons Why opened a worldwide debate about suicide. Based on the 2007 Jay Asher’s novel, the 13-episode series revolves around a teenager, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after experiencing successive tragic and traumatizing events, such as bullying, cyberbullying, and rape.

The series starts with a sequence that shows one of Hannah’s classmates, receiving 13 tapes recorded by her. In each of these, Hannah explains to each person that failed her the wrong they did and the part they played in her suicide.

In Brazil, the effects of this series amongst young people are palpable. In April, one month after the series premiere, there was a 445 percent increase in help calls and emails to the Brazilian center for suicide prevention, the Centro de Valorização da Vida, attributed to this extraordinary increase to the themes the Netflix series portrays.

According to a Latin American University of Social Sciences study, the suicide rate in Brazil had a 62.5 percent increase from 1980 to 2012, making suicide the third cause of death behind homicide and car crashes. However, this topic is still not easily discussed among families and news outlets.

While it is very hard to pinpoint exactly what makes young people want to end their lives, the common factor for more than 50 percent of suicide amongst teenagers is a major and continuous depression, according to a study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depression is among the most treatable of psychiatric illnesses in Brazil, with 80 to 90 percent diagnosed responding well to treatment and gaining relief from the symptoms.

However, understanding that depressed young people can also take their own lives is hard, even in modern days.

Psychiatrist Neury José Botega says that shedding light on the subject and opening the conversation in Brazilian family circles can help prevent such tragedies. “Since suicide is still a taboo subject, we can have the wrong impression that the problem doesn’t exist on a big scale. But this is not true,” he said in an interview for a Brazilian magazine.

 13 Reasons Why sparked many conversations and critiques as suicide is the final and absolute narrative of Hannah. Yet, the way factors that led to her death are shown to viewers opened up discussions on how most people consider adolescents’ emotions.

Experiences during teenage years, formatting the transition to adulthood, mean the most to the psychological and emotional growth of the teenager. However, not many Brazilian families talk about suicide and the reasons behind it, dismissing these factors as teenage drama.

The fact that 13 Reasons Why caused an astronomical 445 percent increase in calls for help in Brazil should not be ignored. It displays an intrinsic and desperate need for this topic to gain importance in the Brazilian community, a need many psychologists already agree should not be brushed aside.

The Netflix original series opens up the suicide topic in many other countries that still consider suicide as taboo, the United States included, where suicide is also the third leading cause of death among American young people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Right now, it is too soon to tell how much more the topic of suicide will expand in the Brazilian familial dialogue, but it is clear that 13 Reasons Why stirred the need for Brazilians to address these issues. New generations won’t be easily shut down by tradition and taboo anymore.



Rotten from within: the Brazilian political system and meat industry


Image courtesy of MercoPress


-Article by Rebecca Arce

A corruption scandal involving the Brazilian meat industry was exposed last Friday when 22 companies were accused of selling expired meat. The police operation called “Weak Flesh” suspects the Ministry of Agriculture Farming and Supply inspectors to be involved in the fraud scheme.

According to allegations, inspectors were bribed to license beef warehouses without performing any sanitary inspections. Inspectors who refused to be a part of the bribery were reallocated to other warehouses or fired.

The police obtained recorded phone calls in which owners of warehouses debated on how to sell the expired meat. “They have been using acids and other chemicals in amounts much larger than permitted by law to camouflage the physical appearance of the expired meat,” explained the delegate responsible for the police operation, Maurício Moscardi Grillo, at a news conference on Friday.

The investigation began due to an accusation from one of the Ministry of Agriculture’s inspectors, Daniel Gouvêa Teixeira, who suspected that rotten meat was being sold by companies in Curitiba, Paraná. Some of Teixeira’s attributions as an agricultural inspector were withdrawn in 2014 because he was considered “too rigorous” when inspecting warehouses which stored expired meat. “We usually are in charge of five, six or seven warehouses. It is impossible to do a good job with that many. Since I’m more strict, the companies complained about me, and I was left with only two,” said Teixeiria to the police.

Maria do Rocio do Nascimento, Teixeria’s former boss and head of the Animal Product Inspection Service (Sipoa) in Curitiba, considered as the leader of the fraud scheme, was arrested on Friday.

As Brazil is the world’s biggest beef and poultry-exporting nation, companies under investigation such as BRF Brasil, which control brands like Sadia and Perdix, triggered several worried reactions from the meat industry worldwide.

Over the weekend, many local meat producers in European countries tried to block the import of Brazilian beef. The European Union agricultural organization COPA-CONGECA issued a statement concerning the reliability of Brazil’s sanitary inspections. “We have some of the highest food safety and animal welfare standards in the world which must be met by imports. Otherwise, our safety standards will be compromised,” said Pekka Pesonen, secretary general of the EU organization.

China, Brazil’s largest meat export market, has suspended imports of Brazilian meat since Friday.

Infected Political Scenario

This incident is not the first big corruption scandal involving the Brazilian government. In May 2015, the then-newly reelected president Dilma Rousseff was impeached due to her involvement with several corruption scandals: amongst them, the “Car Wash” operation, which stole millions of Reais from Petrobrás, Brazil’s largest oil company at the time. After being impeached, Dilma’s vice-president, Michel Temer, rose to power.

Unlike popular expectations, impeaching Dilma was not the last battle against corruption in Brazil. The country’s fraud epidemic does not seem to be linked to specific people but to the political system as a whole.

The “Brazilian way of life,” known for always having an unlawful way around situations, only reflects a government that abuses juridical loopholes to perpetuate its unethical legacy.