Why It Took Me 11 Episodes to Start to Understand the True Message of '13 Reasons Why'


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.

Maybe you’re thinking, here we go again. How many of these articles about the Netflix show, “13 Reasons Why” have you read so far? A few I’m sure.

We all have our thoughts and emotions regarding the premise of the story.

And even though I don’t want to appear to be jumping on a bandwagon, here’s mine. If you have been following me, you’ll likely know I struggle with anxiety, depression and bipolar disorder. I have also struggled with suicidal ideation. Hannah Baker’s line “I feel like everyone’s life would be better without me in it,” hits home for me. Hard.

I want to explain why I feel the message might not be perceived the way the show intended. I get the message is supposed to deter bullying and show how things can build up to tear someone down. I understand the message is supposed to raise awareness to pay attention better when someone is calling out for help. But the message I got — coming from someone with mental illnesses — was that she did it to prove a point.

Let me elaborate.

We live in a stigmatizing society that believes people who kill themselves are only doing it to be spiteful, selfish or are only too “weak” to deal with real life. I’ll admit, the first 10 episodes, I caught myself thinking the same. She took time to record tapes for each person who hurt her. A message to each individual person who contributed. She set up a plan to have the tapes distributed to each person and even included a map of important landmarks for them to visit. This shows me she meant for them to hurt too. To me, it seemed like she was saying, “Because of what you did to me, I want to die to prove you hurt me.”

Now, by the time I finished episode 11, with sweet little Clay’s tape, I was piecing things together enough to realize the true message they were sending. By the end of the 13th episode — while fighting not to be triggered by the vivid depictions of rape and suicide — I understood the point clear as day.

I truly understand the message, but only after watching the whole thing — as I’m afraid most who need to see it, won’t. I understand the point is to empathize with Hannah Baker. Regardless of who watches and who doesn’t, I will be looking out for season two. I will follow this show until the end. I can only hope, others will too.

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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Photo via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

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