What 13 Reasons Why Gets Wrong About Suicide
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What 13 Reasons Why Gets Wrong About Suicide

Because it goes a lot deeper than just bullying.

What 13 Reasons Why Gets Wrong About Suicide

I, much like many other young adults around the country, just binge watched all of Netflix's newest original series 13 Reasons Why. This series tells the story of a girl named Hannah Baker who has killed herself, and she has left behind 13 tapes to 12 of the people who she says were in part responsible for her death (one person was two of the reasons if you haven't see the show). The story is based on a book by Jay Asher by the same title, but for all intents and purposes, I will be focussing on only the series for my explanation. The story is captivating and leaves you wanting to know all the details and the answers to the many questions watching this series will give you. However, there is one really, really big problem I have with this show- and that is the implications it makes about suicide.

The show's very obvious overarching theme is that you never know what your words or actions mean to someone else and that you never know what someone else is going through, so we all need to be kinder to each other. This lesson is very valuable and should be embraced by everyone, whether or not they have seen 13 Reasons Why. A lot of what played into Hannah's ultimate decision to kill herself was the actions of others that had compiled over a year long period of time. But what this show misses about suicide is that Hannah likely did not kill herself strictly because of the bullying she experiences. Studies have shown that at least 90% of young adults who kill themselves have some type of mental health problem, such as depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, or a behavior problem. Mental health awareness is a real thing that for some reason our society is having some trouble coming to terms with. Mental health is never addressed throughout the entire series (you can read the script here) in regards to Hannah, or any of the others who had to listen to her tapes. I did a search in the script for both "depression" and "mental illness"- neither are said, not even once. Given this statistic that mental illness plays such a large role in youth suicides, it is very alarming that a show trying to raise awareness for youth suicide disregarded one of the most important factors that contribute to it.

Along the same vein, none of those who listened to Hannah's tape sought out counseling. In this instance, I am particularly thinking about Justin, Jessica, Tyler, Alex and Clay. If you have seen the show, then you know that each one of them was dealing with an innumerable amount of conflicts in their life that could be very detrimental to them. Even Hannah's parents; the school counselor Mr. Porter tells them early on that help is available for coping with Hannah's death, but they decline, even though every time Hannah's parents are in a scene it ends in a fight or in tears. Despite all of the suicide prevention posters that were hung all over the school, and despite the very obvious undertones the show attempts to convey that help is always available, 13 Reasons Why did not show any instance of anyone successfully getting help, which ma lead young and impressionable teens that help is not achievable. But it is.

13 Reasons Why seems like one giant anti-bullying PSA. Which, for all intents and purposes, is just fine. There are several moments in the show where one of the characters will say something genuine about how much better the world would be if people weren't so cruel. And that is not entirely incorrect. But there really is a harsher reality we need to face; ending bullying will not be the end all be all to suicide. We can all relate to Hannah Baker and the way she felt in some of those moments and we all wish they never happened, but not many of us did what Hannah Baker did, and we need to understand what other factors played into her death. Regardless of how much we try to stop bullying, that will never stop the fact that people still kill themselves every single day for a multitude of reasons. This show really pushes that "if everyone was just nicer to each other, no one would commit suicide" which could not be farther from the truth. People of all ages commit suicide for many more reasons besides bullying, and simply "being nicer to each other" isn't going to eliminate suicide.

We need to face it. We need better mental health programs. We need better access to those programs for those who can't afford it. We need to de-stigmatize mental illness. We need to show people and let people know that treatment is out there, and it is entirely possible for things to get better. We need to advocate for suicide awareness that teaches people that it is important to stay alive for themselves, not because of "the impact it will have on others" And 13 Reasons Why missed these by a long shot.

For what the show is worth, it was a really captivating watch that does make you think a lot about some things that are hard to think about. But this show isn't the only story. It isn't the only reason suicide exists. Sure, maybe the 12 recipients of the tapes had an impact on Hannah's decision to take her own life, but we need to quit putting all of the blame on them and start blaming the way we look at suicide as a whole in this country.

That is what truly killed Hannah Baker.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts or behaviors, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ or at 1-800-273-8255

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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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