"13 Reasons Why" is Not the Mental Health Representation We Deserve

"13 Reasons Why" is Not the Mental Health Representation We Deserve

It is a misrepresentation of reality for the sake of popularity and shock factor.


There are generally two ways the general public looks at self-harm and suicide. The first is bad. The first is the stigma that people who self-harm are crazy, attention-seekers. The second is worse. The second is the romanticization of self-harm and suicide, making it seem beautiful.

Somehow, 13 Reasons Why is both, and more.

There are so many reasons this series is trash for the mental health community. The message of discouragement it sends to struggling teens that might be watching is disgusting. Decisions made by the director, Nic Sheff, might have a horrible, long lasting impact on the mentally ill youth.

Let's start with the obvious: Hannah's suicide.

I couldn't watch the scene. I closed my eyes and my laptop and I cried. For someone who has struggled with suicidal ideation, it was impossible to watch all the way through. I almost vomited. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has guidelines for what a show or movie can include when it comes to the portrayal of a suicide. Nic Sheff completely disregarded all of them. He sacrificed the potential life of a child watching this show for artistic integrity.

I know Sheff's reasoning for showing Hannah's suicide. He had a, as he called it, "dark past" that included a suicide attempt. And, to be blunt, that does not make him an expert. That does not make it okay for him to ignore professionals and experts because he wanted his show to have a shock factor. What he doesn't understand is that Hannah's suicide is almost an instructional guide on how to kill yourself. I know Sheff's reasoning, I just don't understand it.

Moving on.

The main character, Hannah, tried to get help. She tried, and she did not get any. She even went to the school counselor for help, and he blatantly ignored her suicidal statements. No trained professional would do this. They not only would lose their job but they could get jail time. It completely discourages anyone who might be having suicidal thoughts from reaching out for help.

Additionally, at no point in the series does anyone discuss mental health or mental illness. Of course Hannah Baker had mental illness. A neurotypical person would not commit suicide, despite any bullying they might endure. Of course, one can develop a mental illness, like maybe Hannah did. But it was never discusses in the series. Another thing that was never discusses is solutions that aren't suicide. Hannah Baker should have gotten help and she should have been hospitalized. But there are so many ways to get help. With the school doing all of the anti-suicide campaigning after Hannah's death, you would think they include at least one suicide hotline or something. But no. Nothing. The way the series goes, the only way to send a message and end suffering is to die, which is not in the least bit true.

And Nic Sheff and the cast of 13 Reasons Why have the audacity to say it gives people who "identify with Hannah Baker" hope.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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