WARNING: This article may consist of some triggers for readers with a history of suicidal ideations/attempts or sexual trauma. The final paragraph does provide support and resources if you want to skip ahead.
13 Reasons Why Review:
The latest tv show that has been noted as “binge worthy” among young adults is 13 Reasons Why. We’ll go into a 13 Reasons Why Review. The focus of this show is on Hannah Baker’s suicide and all of the actions, or inactions, that led to her fate. This includes themes of bullying and more than one sexual assault. Her suicide was premeditated as evidenced by the time and effort she spent recording 13 audiotapes for classmates and a faculty member that she leaves for them, holding them each accountable for their part in her death. It is based off of a book of the same title by Jay Asher. The show was produced by Selena Gomez, a strong supporter of stigma fighting and mental health treatment in her own right having not been afraid to share about her own mental health concerns and experiences.
The most significant moments in this show are the depictions of sexual assault and rape, and also the suicide itself. In that scene Hannah is shown very graphically slitting her wrists in her home bathtub, leaving her parents to find her. Although this scene has been controversial in regards to the details depicted, it does give the viewer the understanding of the finality of her actions. This is very much in contrast to the rest of the show which illustrates how she was able to continue communication post-mortem, almost suggesting that she did not actually die.
It is fair to note that the counselor in 13 Reasons Why did not uphold his duties, and, quite frankly, overlooked significant red flags that had he acted on could have saved a life. This is not how a support person is expected to act. If you reach out to a professional and they do not “understand” you or invalidate your emotions or thoughts, you are not working with an appropriate clinician who is able of meeting your needs. Continue your efforts to reach out if the first person does not help you in the way you need.
Although this show has created quite a stir, many people, especially teens, have related to it and found comfort in watching similar emotions, situations, and thoughts get a light shined on them in popular media. It has strong potential to create the feeling of “I am not alone.” For others, this show has been the catalyst for more sadistic or validating of personal self harming thoughts. The reality is that the reaction or understanding by anyone is truly unknown unless they watch something like this show or read the book. Approach with caution and either create a safe environment to watch and discuss, or identify who in your life you know you can turn to if feeling triggered.
Regardless of opinion for this show existing, it has created easier access to a serious topic, which can be a positive thing — if addressed effectively. The biggest controversies of this show seem to be regarding if this is glamorizing or romanticizing suicide, specifically with teens. I would agree that there is the potential for this if glossed over without breaking down some specifics. The fact of the matter is that there are 121 suicides per day in America, and for every one of those there are 25 attempts. None of these people, either adults or teens, are able to continue communicating from the beyond, nor are they narrating their own stories via a Netflix show. Suicide is a permanent decision that cannot be reversed.
So what can be done about this? Know the signs of someone who is struggling with keeping their mental health stable and well managed. Something like a Mental Health First Aid class is very beneficial and accessible, especially with it being free. Having more open and honest conversations. Not having the “it-won’t-happen-to-me phenomenon” by instead thinking realistically and checking in often. If you are uncomfortable talking with someone you know or is “in your circle,” making sure you get professional health. So what are some significant talking points to address? Luckily, my colleague, Kate, has put together a list of discussion questions you can use for direction in what may seem like an overwhelm of emotional stimuli. Aside from this, please make sure to check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention at www.AFSP.org or sign up for a FREE Mental Health First Aid course at www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org