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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Why Your Grandma Is Your Biggest Blessing In Life

Because nobody loves you more than she does.
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There are many people in your life you are thankful for: Mom, Dad, siblings, cousins, best friends, teachers, neighbors, you name it. You are grateful to have people who constantly support you, who pick you up when you're down and love you unconditionally. But the one person who stands out among the rest of them is your grandma.

SEE ALSO: 10 Reasons Why Your Grandma Is The Best Person In Your Life

Ever since you were little, you and your grandma have always had a special connection. Going over to Grandma's house for the night was something you looked forward to. She knew how to entertain you at your best and worst moments. No matter what you did together, you loved it. Being with your grandma wasn't like being at home or with your parents – it was better. You went to the park, made cookies, went out to dinner, got a “sweet treat" at the mall, played Go Fish, took a bubble bath for as long as you wanted and got way too much dessert than you should have. You did things you weren't supposed to do, but Grandma didn't stop you. Because at Grandma's house there were no rules, and you didn't have to worry about a single thing. Being with Grandma was the true epitome of childhood. She let you be you. She always made sure you had the best time when you were with her, and she loved watching you grow up with a smile on your face.

The older you got, your weekend excursions with your grandma weren't as frequent, and you didn't get to see her as much. You became more and more busy with school, homework, clubs, sports, and friends. You made the most out of your time to see her, and you wished you could be with her more. Although you were in the prime of your life, she mattered even more to you the older you both became. You were with your friends 24/7, but you missed being with your grandma. When the time rolled around, and you got the chance to spend time with her, she told you never to apologize. She wanted you to go out, have fun and enjoy life the way it makes you happy.

Reflecting back on these moments with your grandma, you realize how truly special she is to you. There is no one who could ever compare to her nor will there ever be. All your life, there is no one who will be as sweet, as caring, as sincere or as genuine as her. Even though you're all grown up now, there are things about your grandma that never changed from when you were a kid. She still takes you out for your favorite meal because she knows how important eating out means to you. She writes you letters and sends you a $5 bill every now and then because she knows you're a hard-working college student with no money. She still helps you with all of your Christmas shopping because she knows it's your tradition. She still asks what's new with your young life because hearing about it makes her day and she still loves you to no end. Your grandma is your biggest blessing (whether you knew it or not), and she always will be no matter what.

Cover Image Credit: Erin Kron

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My Little Brother Saved Me When I Was Ready To End It All

My youngest brother is what kept me from committing suicide. Now, I live my life for him with the hopes that he never feels the way I did.

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Nicky,

You have always held a special place in my heart. From the moment you were born, I fell in love with you. You're the youngest kid and will ALWAYS be my baby boy.

I am so proud of you. At eleven, your accomplishments take up a list longer than this article and I am impressed.

When I was planning on taking my life, you saved me.

Moments before I would have left you, my phone lit up. My phone which has you as my lock screen.

It's always been the same photo — you during a baseball game.

But, there was no notification.

At the moment where I wanted so badly to end my life, you pulled me out.

You are my reason for living.

I go to school so I can get an education and help you out. I call you every single day and ask about school. I do everything in my power to make sure you know that you have a big sister who loves you more than anything else in the world.

When I felt powerless, your hope for life brought me through. You talk about the future with stars in your eyes and I cannot wait to experience it all with you.

Thank you for being the biggest blessing I have ever received.

Thank you for saving my life.

With all of my love,

Sissy

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

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