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Why We Shouldn't Ignore the Main Message of '13 Reasons Why'

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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.

The much awaited and anticipated Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is finally here, and boy has it experienced some backlash. Based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, the show was released March 31st. The show follows Clay, who is trying to recover from his friend Hannah’s suicide. Hannah leaves behind 13 tapes for people to listen to and relives the harrowing events leading up to her death.

I know what everyone is thinking. It’s just a show right? Why is everyone going on about it? Why is this show all that people are talking about? It is just a show, yes. But it is a show of utter importance in today’s society. It’s a show people needed to break down the barriers around taboo issues people are sweeping under the carpet. People have been waiting years for something like this to happen. I want to cover why we shouldn’t be ignoring the main message this show is providing.

This show is trying to raise awareness about suicide in teens. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and we still have little to no resources to cover the topic and educate the masses. In many high schools, suicide is barely even mumbled in a classroom session. Throughout the show, you can see the school only takes action after the death has occurred. Many are complaining how it didn’t show how to prevent the suicide. I believe they didn’t show it because the characters didn’t know any better beforehand. It was only afterwards that they began to take action. The series shows how suicide should be spoken about on all occasions, not just after a death has occurred.

Bullying and rape are the other main topics shown throughout the show. The show is trying to make us think about how our actions have consequences. No one on the show was taking any accountability for their actions and most had a victim mentality. Characters seemed to believe Hannah was the issue, even though Hannah had taken her own life. Hannah was the “crazy bitch.” No one was coming forward until the very end when everything was beyond their own control.

The characters tried so hard to control the situation instead of being honest to everyone around them. The series showed honesty is the best policy as it allows closure (for example when Clay went to Jeff’s parents house and told the truth). You can see in this scene how content they were in knowing they finally got some closure on their son’s death. This scene shows a valuable life lesson about how far the truth can go. It shows taking responsibility for our own part in situations can allow others to heal in the process. I can safely say everyone’s actions in the series had repercussions and made Hannah feel so overwhelmed to the point she didn’t want to live anymore. This, sadly, also happens in real life.

Bringing rape to light was huge in so many ways as well. We live in a society where women (and men) are afraid to come forward when rape is presented. So many girls have a mentality of it being their fault, fearing no one will believe them, no justice will be served and they were “asking for it.” The show portrays how this topic is still ignored. In the show, Hannah tried to speak out about it, only to be told to “move on” from the event. Rape is traumatizing, violating and there is no excuse for it, even though we live in a society that sometimes seems to try to justify it.

We follow Hannah’s journey right to the end. Due to the bullying, it has left her feeling so isolated. This happens in reality and sometimes people can feel so alone that they resort to taking their own lives. If Hannah felt like she had another choice in the time leading up to her death, I believe she would have taken it. This is where people are missing the message. This is how a suicide happens in real life. I believe the show captures the reality of it perfectly. I understand the end scene was distressing, and as someone who has tried to hurt herself, the scene surfaced a lot of issues for me. But I found comfort in knowing they realistically bought that scene to life. I believe it was necessary in some ways to make viewers uncomfortable watching it. I believe uncomfortable feelings are a doorway for growth. Not glamorizing Hannah’s suicide was a big statement in itself. I believe this is the reality of a suicide.

A someone who battles on the daily with suicidal thoughts and is a suicide attempt survivor, I am comforted in knowing suicide has finally been brought into the mainstream. Mainstream as in a way it is being normalized and captured for what it really is. It may be a just a show to some, but to me, this is a gateway of hope and relief. It gives me the bravery to confront issues head on and speak out, rather than ignore them as they eat away at me internally.

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 19, 2017
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