I was recently talking with a friend of mine about the controversial book-to-screen Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. We talked about what it's intense focus on suicide does to viewers and we talked about how the show portrayed society's way of dealing with suicide, and honestly, it was disheartening.
Suicide has been depicted on screen or stage for years now, like the show One Tree Hill (S3, E16), the musical Dear Evan Hansen, and movies like To Save A Life and Cyberbully. We could even go as far back as Romeo and Juliet. So what is it about 13 Reasons Why that caused such an uproar? While, for one, many of these are just short two-hour depictions or special episodes included in a series, while this entire series was centered around the topic. Which is difficult to watch, especially with the main antagonist already being dead, but still being glorified. It made her decision to commit suicide look like a bad thing that could be turned good, which is just not true. No good comes from suicide.
I don't care that it made her friends reevaluate their actions and character, or that it started conversations at their school, or made parents pay more attention to their kids. Because Hannah Baker is dead. She's dead. And that's not good or worth it, not at all, not ever.
I think that's one of the reasons 13 Reasons Why is running into more controversy than others before it. It's just so real, yet still leaves too much out. Not only did they fail to show that her mental state needed to be taken into consideration, they failed to show how much cutting your own wrists will hurt and how scary watching yourself bleed out is. Instead, they made Hannah's death almost peaceful, and it was awful. Also, with her already being dead at the start of the series, it made her death seem right because everyone was expecting it, waiting for it. Which was dangerous to play out, because that made her suicide enticing, which is volatile content to have available to anyone.
It made it seem like she had no choice, she had to do it. Which is personally one of the most infuriating things I hear about suicide: "Suicide isn't an option." It's plastered on school halls and prevention flyers everywhere, and I hate it. I hate it because not only does that negate the power and right that an individual has over their own life, it makes it sound like those who have committed suicide didn't have a choice. Which is in all cases wrong. You always have a choice.
I don't believe telling people that suicide isn't an option will in any way prevent further suicide because it is. For instance, as a living, breathing human being, I have every right to take my own life. I have that choice. So I don't think further stripping someone of their control by telling them they don't, will help them.
Instead, I think we should say that suicide isn't the right choice. Because while it is your life, your choice--there really are no justifications good enough for suicide. Even if you've been through hell and can't find a reason to live right now, keep fighting any ways. Always keep fighting. Because maybe something worth fighting for will come along, and you'll wish you'd have stuck around to find it. And I promise you if you decide to commit suicide someone is going to be very, very mad at you and someone is going to miss you. So please, choose to stay.
If you are in pain right now and are seriously thinking about hurting yourself, please call 911. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, you can call the NSPH at 1-800-273-8255 and speak with a professional anonymously. Or, if you don't feel like talking, you can text the word CONNECT to 741741 to text with a professional anonymously at any time.