It’s been about five months since the series, “13 Reasons Why” debuted on Netflix. This show, based on the book by Jay Asher, about a young girl who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes explaining why garnered an impressive audience and an unbelievable amount of press. Why? Because it represented hope. A hope that we as a society might finally have an open and constructive conversation about mental health. A hope that young people who struggle with mental illness might have something to relate to. A hope that media could be used positively for a crucial cause instead of sensationalism and publicity and viewers.
That is a false hope, and I am disappointed. I am angry.
“13 Reasons Why” is extremely irresponsible and detrimental. As someone who has struggled with depression, I was very curious about this show. I thought, “well maybe, maybe, this could be something I could relate to.” Well, I could definitely relate, because I have felt the things that Hannah Baker felt. I still do. This show and the twisted ideas it promotes are still affecting me. Unfortunately, the series is addictive, as any good, binge-worthy show is. So, even when I started realizing this and empathizing with her, it was too late. I was hooked. I had to see how it ended, even though I knew.
This show is unethical, poorly done, and overhyped. Do not watch it. Just don’t. And while I don’t have 13, I have my own list of reasons to avoid this show like your life depends on it.
- “13 Reasons Why” perpetuates the idea that suicide is an answer.
So maybe, some people would argue that the show helped open up the conversation that suicide is not the answer. But it didn’t shut down the idea that it is an answer at all. That is literally what the whole show is about. Hannah feels so lost and so alone and so consumed in darkness that this feels like her only solution. And obviously everyone knows that it’s not, and it’s really easy to tell someone that. But honestly, that is hard to believe when you’re the one being told. Especially, especially, when a show enforces the fact, intentionally or not, that people with mental illnesses, at some point, usually end up killing themselves.
- It communicates that suicide is justifiable.
The whole premise of the show is that these 13 people and the things they did led Hannah to kill herself. Which yeah, it’s a lesson in understanding that the way you treat people really does affect them in ways you can’t always anticipate, but this show says that they are to blame. While a lot of what the characters did are despicable things, they didn’t do them with the intention of leading someone to suicide. It is not their fault, it was Hannah’s mental illness. Do the horrible things people do help when you’re already feeling low? Of course not. But they aren’t the cause, and they are not a reason to kill yourself.
- It portrays suicide as a dramatic overreaction, when that is the last thing the mental health movement needs.
In the show, the plot quickly goes from “Hannah killed herself, this is awful, what can we do better” to “Oh no, we’re in trouble, what if the adults find out what we did, let’s cover up, damn it Hannah why would you do this.” The stigma surrounding mental health is already that people struggling with mental illness are just being dramatic. “13 Reasons Why” basically did the opposite of what it should have. It’s honestly a shame, because with the platform it had and the publicity it got, it could have been something great. The show is less about the mental health conversation and more about a drama series and ratings. “What will get people to watch season 2?” instead of “What will inform people and provide truth and guidance?” The show is exploitative and wrong. Period.
Please, please, do not watch this show.
Suicide hotline: 1-800-273-8255