To the People Who Think '13 Reasons Why' Is Meme Material
Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.
To be clear, I haven’t watched a single episode of “13 Reasons Why.” I’ve seen it has triggered a lot of people in crisis who are vulnerable towards topics regarding mental health, suicide and self-harm. Because of this, in order to protect my mental well-being, I haven’t seen it or won’t see it anytime soon.
What I know so far is the series shows Hannah, an adolescent who dies by suicide mails 13 tapes to 13 people who harmed her and as she explains in the tapes, are the reasons she took her own life.
But I have social networks, and I’ve seen the boom it has had on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And so, I felt I had the need to ask others to watch it responsibly.
What does this mean? In my very own, personal opinion, if you know you are vulnerable, don’t watch it. I know it can be tempting — the curiosity, the idea — but your mental health matters way too much more than watching the “hip series” of the moment.
This doesn’t mean in any way I’m encouraging people to not watch it. I’m saying having a mental health condition carries certain responsibilities and I believe one of them is to watch after yourself and if it’s possible, not expose yourself to triggers that can lead to crisis.
I’ve seen some interviews of the creators and producers. I admire them because they make clear that the purpose of the show is to create awareness about suicide, mental health and bullying — among other topics. They did it so those who struggle in silence would speak up and know they aren’t alone and their life is worth saving.
If you watch the show with this purpose, kudos to you, too.
But I’ve seen the other side. The reality of a world where everything is “meme material,” where people watch the show solely for the morbid curiosity of watching a girl be in so much pain she takes her own life (in a very graphic way as I know). People watch it, like watching something so external to their reality and so impossible to happen to them, and they dare to criticize and defend the people who hurt her. Some say she just wanted attention.
I’ve seen thousands of memes on Instagram that say, “When you text your best friend and she doesn’t answer” or “When your boyfriend doesn’t send you a goodnight text” or “When you find out your friends made plans without you” or even “When your sibling ate the piece of cake you were saving for yourself.” The answer to all these memes is: “Welcome to your tape,” because this is what Hannah says to those who are a “reason” for her death.
This is absolutely irresponsible, and misses the point of the show.
For those who share these memes and talk in such a criticizing way of suicide without compassion for those who experience it, I have a few words.
You aren’t watching a science fiction show that portrays an unrealistic scenario. This, with variations, is the reality of so many of us who struggle with suicidal ideation and self-harm. Those of us for whom, being alive is a daily choice. For many, this show is just 13 episodes to binge-watch on Netflix, but for others, it is a daily demon they can’t escape. Instead of criticizing, or saying “This can’t happen,” I encourage you to look around. Be kinder to those who need you. Pay attention to those brave people in your environment that admit they live with a mental health condition. When someone talks about suicide please pay attention and give them reasons to be alive. Please don’t just say it’s a “call for attention” and when you see someone who self-harms, be empathic towards their pain.
This show isn’t depicting an isolated reality. This may be the life of someone who might be sitting next to you.
Suicide isn’t a joke. Suicide isn’t meme material. It’s an awful reality.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.
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Screenshot via @realgameprophet on Twitter.