Bryce raped two people, Alex wrote a list. Sheri's actions killed somebody, Ryan published a poem. Justin allowed an assault to occur, Zach stole some notes. There are differences in magnitude which make people believe that there are differences in whether or not each action was "suicide-worthy". But regardless, every one of the actions played into Hannah Baker's decision to end her life.
Speaking objectively, assaulting two people is worse than ranking a woman on her body parts. Speaking objectively, being the reason somebody died is worse than publishing a personal poem. Speaking objectively, allowing a rape to occur is worse than stealing some notes. But you can't minimize somebody's pain because it doesn't seem that bad comparably. We don't live in the minds of others and we do not have the capacity to say what isn't "that bad" for somebody else.
Because for Hannah Baker, the list wasn't just a list. Being voted "Best Ass in the Freshman Class" may be something that you would have been able to brush off at your high school, or even a title you may have been excited to have. It wasn't that way for Hannah. She was a new student who had just been labeled the class slut for an out-of-context photo by a man she really liked. Her only friend abruptly ended their friendship because of the list. She was objectified, harassed and ridiculed because of it.
For Hannah Baker, a published poem wasn't just a published poem. It was her deepest, darkest thoughts broadcast for the whole school to see. And even though it was anonymous, the safe space that the poetry group gave her was obliterated. The trust in her new friend Ryan was gone. And either because her classmates actually thought it was her, or because in her declining mental state she believed they did, she felt embarrassed and vulnerable.
For Hannah Baker, some stolen notes weren't just stolen notes. They were her lifeline. They were the only source of kindness in a world that seemed to be entirely against her. They were a guaranteed smile in a day filled with sadness. And they were further proof that even the people who seemed kind and genuine were not.
Maybe if you were on that list, you could brush it off. Maybe if it was your poem, it wouldn't affect you. Maybe you wouldn't even notice your notes being gone. But seeing those things as "not that bad" is a luxury, a luxury Hannah did not have.
To pit Hannah's reasons against each other is to determine which things that happen to a person are worthy of them committing suicide. To say that she is overreacting on some of the tapes is to deny the fact that things can be more than they are on the surface. To let some of the characters off the hook by saying, "what they did wasn't as bad as someone else" is to say that lying and objectifying and destroying trust are okay, so long as someone else does something worse.
Alex wrote a list. Ryan published a poem. Zach stole some notes. But to Hannah, Alex wrote a list that ended a friendship and made her subject to harassment for the rest of her life. To Hannah, Ryan took away the only source of safety she had and destroyed the trust and vulnerability she finally had with somebody. To Hannah, Zach stole her safety net and let her continue spiraling into a depression.
To perpetuate the idea that Hannah overreacted is to perpetuate the idea that suicide is simple and there is a rational reason behind it. To tell others that their pain and suffering isn't valid because you don't believe the cause is "that bad". To essentially blame somebody taking their life on the inability to get over little things, when in reality they are so much larger and more complex than what they are on the surface. You do not get to determine how somebody should react to the things that happen in their life.
Hannah's life could not be saved, but fortunately she is just a character. Mental health and depression are scary and complex and sometimes there is nothing you can do. However, you can be kind to one another. You can be a good human. A few kind words, a helping hand or genuine concern could have saved Hannah's life, so use them to try and save someone else's.
If you or someone you know feels the need to speak with a mental health professional, you can contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255