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Why People With Mental Illness Need to Be Careful When Watching '13 Reasons Why'

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Many of you have probably heard about the new Netflix TV Series, “13 Reasons Why.” If you haven’t, I’ll give you a quick description of the plot.

A girl named Hannah Baker kills herself and leaves behind a set of 13 cassette tapes that describe 13 reasons why she killed herself. Each tape belongs to someone who hurt her and made her want to kill herself. The tapes get passed along to each person who ever hurt her. Meanwhile, her parents are struggling to cope with her death and decide to create a lawsuit against the school in their frustration with the administrative board for not helping her when she needed it most.

The series follows Clay Jensen, a friend of Hannah’s. He receives the tapes on his doorstep one night and starts listening. As he gets deeper and deeper into the tapes, he loses his control of emotions and goes to each of the people on the tapes before him to get them to confess to what they did so he can find justice for Hannah.

This series really gives a powerful and important message on bullying, mental illness, rape, self harm and suicide, but if you’re not in a good place, it can be dangerous to watch.

I was told by a couple friends I probably shouldn’t watch the show because there are so many ways I could get triggered. But I wanted to see the show for myself to see if the message of the show was true to my understanding of mental illness, self harm and suicide.

The show is dark and despairing. There is so much hurting, and for someone who is already in a bad place, the show has the potential to send someone off into a much darker abyss than before.

There are many scenes when your heart is wrenched in emotion and sympathy for what Hannah experienced, and scenes when you see the issues are so real. Much realer than you would imagine from a Netflix TV series.

The scene at the end of the series when you actually see Hannah die is the most dangerous scene to see as someone struggling with mental illness. It’s blunt and honest, and there’s nothing left out. You see everything. Before getting angry over this triggering scene, you need to understand this detail is actually pretty relevant to the show in order for your eyes to be opened to suicide. However, this “detail” can easily send a recovering self-harmer into a relapse, so there is a positive and negative.

I do honestly believe this show was very real and for the most part quite accurate to what mental illness is like. Obviously they can’t get everything right, but they truly got close. I think this show is good for people who don’t understand suicide or the warning signs to watch for. More than being a form of entertainment, it can be a form of education.

This is not me saying you need to watch this show. In fact, if you are struggling, I suggest you wait. I think you will understand when you are ready, because I knew when I was. I was told by friends to be careful about watching it, but I was ready for what was to come and I felt I was at a good enough place where I could watch the show without getting triggered. And that’s a decision you have to be able to make. Only you can decide what you can and can’t handle. Keep yourself safe.

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.

Originally published: April 17, 2017
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