By now, most have probably already heard of the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why. It comes as no surprise why the show has gained a lot of popularity, as it is very controversial. Suicide is a very serious topic that must be discussed, however, I don’t think that this show did a good job properly initiating conversation about this topic. One such reason is the presence of very graphic scenes. Despite the fact there is a warning before episodes with these scenes, parents are being further warned that this is a dangerous show, particularly for young audiences that may be depressed and have suicidal thoughts. It is being recommended that parents watch the show, but have teens and younger audience opt out of it as it may be triggering, especially to those that may be struggling. Parents can learn some very important things from this show, such as noticing the signs of substance abuse, “slut shaming” and “rape myths” that place the blame on the victim as well as how to discuss sexual violence and consent with their children.
I had initially told myself that I would not watch it, just because half of the internet had already spoiled it for me. But, I caved in. I watched the first episode and found myself wanting to find out what was next. I also found myself very frustrated by the characters’ actions, including the protagonist’s. I felt bad for finding excuses for why Hannah Baker’s suicide was stupid. People commit suicide for a myriad of reasons, such as bullying, mental illness, heartbreak, disillusionment, and so many more. To the ones that criticize Hannah’s reasons for taking her own life, you missed the point of the show. The show focuses on bullying and its consequences, and that treating people nicely is the first step in preventing someone from taking their life. It is true that an act of kindness can go a long away and that not being an asshole to people could help someone. But what the series fails to show is a character that steps up and reaches out to someone for help. Instead, the show focuses on the drama and survivor’s guilt in the aftermath. There are also some that may say that Hannah Baker did not display any signs of mental illness openly, but as stated before, people commit suicide for various reasons and it is not always because of mental illness. Hannah could have easily felt depressed and have been experiencing post-traumatic stress from all the bad things that happened to her. Unfortunately, as we see in many cases, people put on a mask of happiness or do not reach out and their pain goes unnoticed, especially if the people around them are not paying attention to the small things that point to suicide.
Another thing that I feel the show did a poor job at was in not providing the audience with information on how and where to get help. How are they going to show a graphic suicide scene, not one, but two sexual assaults, and gun violence and not mention anywhere in the show information about where to get help? They missed a very big opportunity to inform a large audience about helpful hotlines. To many, Hannah’s actions of making tapes dedicated to everyone who wronged her comes off as sadistic. While the characters mentioned in Hannah’s tapes should be held accountable for their actions, the show misleads viewers into believing there is someone to blame for suicide. The characters are left with a feeling of survivor’s guilt, this is especially seen in Clay who did nothing wrong to Hannah, but beats himself up for not displaying his love to Hannah while she was still alive.
If you are struggling or know someone that may be struggling, please reach out. You are loved and your life is valuable. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Rape Abuse and Incest National Network at 1-800-656-HOPE, or visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org.