Whether you loved it or hated it, chances are you’ve watched, read, or heard about 13 Reasons Why. The popular novel turned Netflix mini-series has caused a stir among parents, teens, schools, the media, and so on. The show revolves around high school student Hannah Baker who leaves behind 13 cassette tapes detailing her reasons for taking her own life. Both the book and the show explore the dicey and controversial topics of bullying, rape, slut shaming, depression, and suicide.
The show’s popularity has sparked a debate about how to appropriately bring awareness to suicide and mental health and the opinions are strong and split. Millions have taken to Twitter, Facebook, and other social media outlets to post their thoughts. While many believe that the show sensationalizes suicide, others argue 13 Reasons Why opens the floor to honest discussions about suicide and depression.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and every year more than 44,000 Americans die by suicide. With the numbers so high, it’s hard to ignore the potential impact that 13 Reasons might have on the masses. On one side of the coin, the main concern about the show is that suicide is portrayed as a viable coping mechanism when you feel hopeless or in despair. Further some see the story portrays a glamorous way to get the attention you’ve been seeking (by never being forgotten) or the revenge you’ve been dreaming of (by getting back at the people who’ve wronged you). The story line memorializes Hannah. Those who had done harm to her are shown feeling the consequences of their actions. In a way, Hannah’s actions seem vindicated. Mental Health experts opposed to the show see the danger in that kind of portrayal. Their fear being that the show can be triggering for those already struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
The counterargument is that 13 Reasons Why brings light to the many societal pressures that teens face. According to psychologist and psychoanalyst Deborah Serani, Psy.D , “not only are teens talking to other teens about this series in record numbers, but families, schools and communities are discussing the show” (Psychology Today). With such heightened awareness, crisis hotlines and behavioral health options are now flooding the internet, providing other options to suicide. This show may help by helping those recognize the symptoms and signs of depression and can actually help people understand the warning signs of suicide.
Regardless of where you fall in the debate, it’s important to recognize that there are many people out there are watching 13 Reasons Why; maybe even someone in your own home. Perhaps the show’s popularity is a testament to the ongoing issues faced by those dealing with mental wellness. So, offer to watch alongside your teen, open up the discussion about mental health, and pay close attention to the people in your life who might be silently hurting.
And remember, there are many more than 13 reasons to live.
If you or a loved one is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please use the 24 hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.
Horizon Health Services offers help for people dealing with depression, dysthymia and other mental health disorders. If you or someone you love is experiencing any symptoms of depression or signs of suicide and live in the Western New York area, please contact us. We can help. Give our team a call today at (716) 831-1800.
What do you think?
What are your opinions on 13 Reasons Why? Do you think the message and story line helps or hurts our community? Would you let your teenager watch the show? Share your comments below.