Watching '13 Reasons Why' Encouraged Me to Talk to My Husband About My Suicide Attempt
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.
I’m sure many of you have seen Netflix’s new show, “13 Reasons Why,” and those of you who haven’t seen it may have read people’s conflicting opinions about it. It isn’t surprising that there has been much conflict about the content of the show. Some people argue it throws difficult issues surrounding mental health, suicide and rape into the spotlight in a way that is uncomfortable, but forces you to think about it. Others say the show itself is triggering and upsetting. They argue it could perhaps romanticize suicide to young and vulnerable individuals.
Apologies in advance, but I am sitting on the fence with this. At the time of watching, I found the show to be upsetting and very difficult to watch. My husband and I found ourselves binge watching to begin with, but as we worked our way through the episodes, we watched fewer and fewer in one sitting. I was often left with teary eyes and a tightness in my chest. However, I was determined to finish the show for myself and make my own decision about the program. What followed next surprised me.
We finished that final episode, and watched “Behind 13 Reasons Why,” which had auto-played (as Netflix does!) In the moments of silence that followed, I pulled my sobbing self together and composed myself enough to look up. My husband, who has never experienced any mental health challenges, was crying. He got up from his chair and held me as I sobbed again. In that moment, I found a glimmer of courage. I opened up about my own experiences. I had never told anyone about my own suicide attempt — it was a day I had pushed down into a dark corner of my mind and left it there to fester. Even though I had moved forward with my life, seen doctors and counselors and created a stable life for myself, that day weighed heavily on me. It was a weight I learned to carry silently. I was scared about sharing such a vulnerable part of my life with my husband, and was worried it would impact our relationship. But I needn’t have been worried.
My husband and I discussed that day for some time. We sat out in the sun and we cried, but I had such an overwhelming feeling of relief, as though a weight had been lifted off my chest. Since then, he has become even more vocal in raising awareness about recognition of mental health issues and how to help those around you who may need a shoulder to lean on. He has continued to support me just as much as he did previously. He treats me no differently, but I do feel a difference within myself.
For me, “13 Reasons Why” was crucial for this huge leap forward. It opened the door for me to share a deeply traumatic experience and helped me to start a dialogue I had previously failed to start for a decade — and for that I am truly thankful. I am also thankful the show helped my husband see the true face of mental health. I find that even on my darker days, it is far easier to try and gloss over the problems to try and prevent him from worrying further. In my own way, I am trying to protect him from the cold reality I live daily. I think it’s a reality that many people still can’t, or don’t, want to acknowledge.
Unfortunately, when he posted about it on Facebook, the post got very few reactions — very few likes, barely any shares. It was the same when I shared his post on my own Facebook page. Please don’t misunderstand my point here. We didn’t set out to get hundreds of likes, and we were in no way expecting the post to go viral — but the fact that our own friends and family didn’t react reinforced that people are still uncomfortable with the idea of mental health and suicide.
As I mentioned earlier, many people have criticized “13 Reasons Why” for its uncomfortable portrayal, graphic content and its potential to be triggering for vulnerable people. But in my opinion, I feel it reflects the true gravity of the situation. Mental health, rape and suicide are uncomfortable. They are difficult to talk about and it can be upsetting, both for those at the heart of it and those who are observing. “13 Reasons Why” attempts to stare these issues straight in the face, rather than hiding from them – and I believe that is the only way we can truly raise awareness. We can’t keep hiding from this, or making out that the issues here should be kept hidden, just because we don’t want to feel a little discomfort. It forces viewers, regardless of their experiences with the issues, to think about the consequences, as well as their actions. How office gossip could be the final straw, how an argument between friends could cut much deeper than it first appears, how what you see on the outside might not be representative of the struggles on the inside.
I understand we want to protect people from seeing depictions of suicide, but to suggest it romanticizes suicide is, in my mind, a bit of a knee-jerk statement. The show doesn’t end with Hannah in the bath, it shows us the grief and pain of her family and her friends. It shows us how they struggle to pick up the pieces after the fact. We see Hannah’s parents wrestling with their grief throughout. I think this in itself prevents suicide being seen in a romanticized way. At my lowest point, I wasn’t thinking clearly about the aftermath of my actions — I could only think about ending my pain. In my mind, my loved ones would have been better without me, I felt like a burden. Perhaps if a show like this had been available 10 years ago, I would have seen the situation in a different light. I do agree that the show needs more warnings of graphic content, and it should include a list of agencies at the end to direct those who need it to more help, but I truly believe shows like “13 Reasons Why” — while imperfect — are the first step in the right direction for mental health awareness.
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.