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Why Selena Gomez's Response About '13 Reasons Why' Missed the Mark

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If you are following “13 Reasons Why” conversation online right now, you know it’s a very hot topic. People have expressed very well-thought-out critiques on it and every day, it seems like another mental health organization is recommending against watching it. However, there are also folks who have their own lived experience and found the show gave them something — be it validation, solidarity, etc. — and that’s completely valid. There are also folks who don’t have lived experience of mental health issues who found this show taught them something — which in itself may be dangerous for a number of reasons, as Mighty contributor, Alyse, says so well. All in all, it’s been a complicated issue.

Eventually, the show’s creators were asked to respond to these criticisms. And they chose to blame stigma. Selena Gomez said to the Associated press, “We wanted to do it justice and, yeah, [the backlash is] going to come no matter what,” and in Vanity Fair, writer Nic Sheff said, “Facing these issues head-on—talking about them, being open about them—will always be our best defense against losing another life. I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations because silence really does equal death.”

As a mental health advocate who also has a lot of mental health advocate friends who are upset with the show, I felt like this response missed the mark. Of course, there are people who hate “13 Reasons Why” because they still believed stigmatized things. But that’s not the reason it’s getting the criticism it’s getting. I believe you can’t claim stigma is responsible when most of the people sharing criticisms of the show are experts on suicide prevention and mental health. In addition, I’ve noticed “13 Reasons Why” is affecting vulnerable people in their communities. I believe you can’t say stigma is the reason people are upset when the creators of the show either didn’t read the responsible suicide reporting guidelines, or didn’t care about them.

Stigma is not the reason mental health advocates and organizations are not fans of “13 Reasons Why.” We want real, gritty, engaging stories about the experience of being suicidal. But we don’t want it in a way that people feel like they have to recover after watching it, or worse, go to the hospital. It’s disappointing they are blocking out the well-thought-out critiques and feedback. It makes me sad to think they might not learn from this and build something even more awesome with us next time.

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 Netflix Youtube channel.

Originally published: May 16, 2017
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