The Portrayal Of Suicide In 13 Reasons Why Is Unacceptable

The Portrayal Of Suicide In 13 Reasons Why Is Unacceptable

If you are considering suicide, there are ways to get help... but 13 Reasons Why portrays suicide as the perfect answer.
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Hailed as a powerful foray into the realm of teenage suicide, on first glance, the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why appears to be exactly that—a wake-up call to parents, teens, teachers and schools everywhere about the warning signs, triggers and causes of teenage suicide, a growing problem throughout America. However, 13 Reasons Why is more than just a warning about our friends, family members, students—it actively promotes suicide as a viable response to normal teenage problems.

Teenagers nowadays have a hard time. With the advent of iPhones and social media, the drama that once stopped at the borders of the schoolyard now follows them home and permeates their houses. Trying to navigate the social pressures, on top of academic pressure and the stress of applying to colleges, can push many teenagers to their breaking points—as in the case of Hannah Baker, a junior trying to survive in a hostile school environment. After suffering social isolation and rejection, failed attempts to reach out to other students and the school counselor, sexual harassment and eventually rape, Hannah Baker makes the choice to take her own life—but she leaves behind 13 cassette recordings, intended for the 13 people she holds personally responsible for her suicide.

The series begins a little while after her suicide with a boy named Clay Jensen, who had crushed on Hannah Baker ever since she moved to town her sophomore year. He receives the cassette tapes anonymously in a package in the mail. Most of Hannah's story is told in flashback as he listens to the tapes. There is no denying that Hannah suffered in her life—she was rejected repeatedly by those she tried to befriend, harassed and taken advantage of by numerous boys, and eventually raped by the captain of the football team—a few weeks after she watched him rape another girl, unconscious, at a party.

However, that is exactly the problem with the series—the 13 tapes act to justify her suicide. The series addresses rampant problems in our schools—problems like bullying, inept school counselors and sexual assault (or at the very least, a twisted understanding of consent)—but it seems to agree with Hannah's decision to kill herself. Millions of teenagers deal with the same problems that Hannah did, but the series, instead of giving those kids a message of hope for the future, promotes suicide. I almost felt like the show was telling me that suicide is an appropriate response to my problems.

13 Reasons Why was trying to call out parents, teachers and teenagers to look for warning signs, to be kind and to be there for your children, students and classmates. But in the process, it sent a subliminal message that if you are that teenager who is considering suicide and you try and fail to reach out to the people around you—it's perfectly okay to commit suicide to resolve your problems. Not only that, but it's also perfectly okay to blame everyone around you.

In the end, almost always, those who are seriously considering suicide are suffering from a mental illness, oftentimes a form of depression. Mental illness isn't a joke or "all in your head"—it's a legitimate problem that you can't deal with on your own. But Hannah never reaches out to her parents, and when she tries and fails to reach out to her school counselor, the series even furthers its negative message—that your school counselor doesn't really care and can't help you. Sure, there are bad school counselors who are unqualified and don't want to help out their students. But that isn't the case for every school counselor, and teenagers who reach out to their school counselors can oftentimes find the help that they need.

There is often an unspoken stigma about suicide, that victims of suicide just wanted attention or that their mental illness isn't "real." Should that be the case? No; people who commit suicide need help, not stigmatization. 13 Reasons Why combated that stigmatization... by pushing blame the other way. Instead of blaming Hannah, the series blamed all the people around her who "failed" her. Were a lot of the people on her tapes awful to her? Absolutely. But in the end not one of them held a gun to her head and forced her to cut her wrists. Not one of them gave her the razor blades or forced her to do it. It was Hannah's choice. She needed help; she didn't get it; and suicide was her answer. She should have reached out to her parents, in the same way that those people around her should have reached out to her and should have seen the signs. But no one is to blame. Suicide is a tragedy—a preventable tragedy, with the right help—but nonetheless a tragedy. Hannah doesn't deserve to be blamed any more than the people around her.

With that said, there were characters that did awful things to her, and they should be held accountable for their actions. For example, Bryce Walker, who we saw raped at least two girls, should be prosecuted. Gossip and rumor-spreading should be addressed with all high school students—because everyone is guilty of it at one point or another. But that doesn't mean that we should hold those other people directly accountable for someone's suicide. There is always more we can do to help people who are considering suicide, in the same way that there is always more the victim can do to try to reach out and find help. Suicide is a tragedy for everyone involved, not a crime to those who could have stopped it, but 13 Reasons Why perpetuated it as such.

Overall, 13 Reasons Why made a point about looking for the signs and being there for your peers and children. But on the topic of suicide, it failed utterly and gave a dangerous message—that suicide is justifiable, even inevitable. Hannah Baker's death was not justifiable, nor was it inevitable; if you are considering suicide, there are ways to get help and to improve your situation, and 13 Reasons Why portrayed her problems as unbearable, her feelings as unresolvable, neither of which is true. I just hope that the teenagers watching it are aware of that and know to get help before they turn to suicide.

Cover Image Credit: Refinery29

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.
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The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:


“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:

“FISH STICK! I NAMED HIM FISH STICK BECAUSE HE'S A FISH STICK, OF COURSE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 59)

When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:


"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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My Story As A Recovering Self-Harmer

Content warning: Self-harm.

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Since high school, I have physically and knowing self-harmed as a way to distract myself. It has been almost 7 years and right now I have only been a few months clean. In the past 7 years, I have relapsed more than a couple of times. I have gone months at a time and found myself at a breaking point.

I know it's nobody's business and it might be oversharing but this is meant for primary readers. For those who are going through recovery or just began today. If secondary or tertiary readers stumble upon this then I hope it helps you understand from the other side.

I am still recovering. The thing about addiction is that you can never fully be "cured." You can be clean for years and still relapse. The key is to decide to try again.

I call it an addiction because it was. I grabbed the razor before I could even understand why I was numb. I did it multiple times a day and sometimes I didn't need an actual reason.

It was a sort of ripple effect. I couldn't stop the ripples into turning into the next one and instead, I just watched as they spread. One second I was OK and the next I locked the door.

Some people smoke and some people drink. I hate the smell of smoke and can't stand the taste of alcohol but I often wish I could use those as a distraction for my distraction. I do many things now to distract myself from getting too close to another relapse. I let out a scream to alarm my family or I start running. The first few seconds of the attempt are the hardest. It's an internal pain that makes you itch inside out.

After a few minutes have passed I can usually begin to calm myself. I sit down and remind myself that everything is OK. It isn't always easy so calling a friend is always an option.

Sometimes I end up crying in order to release all the built-up emotions. When minutes have passed and I am still filled with tears I force myself to grab something to eat. I have realized that I can't cry and eat at the same time. I grab anything. Sometimes my siblings make me something instead.

I am seeking professional help for those who are wondering. I am almost half a year clean and I have two caring and supportive friends and a family who does their best to understand and support me.

Recovery is not easy when it comes to mental illness because the results aren't always visible like a broken bone. Any amount of self felt recovery is amazing. It's a step towards a better you. Talking to people and seeking professional help are all steps.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255

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