The recent Netflix series “Thirteen Reasons Why” tells the story of a girl named Hannah who completes suicide, and then leaves behind cassette tapes detailing the thirteen reasons why she took her life. The program is very intense because the viewer is listening to Hannah tell her story. All of the kids on Hannah’s “Thirteen Reasons List” have listened to the tapes except for Clay Jensen (who knows about them), who was in love with Hannah. Throughout the program her classmates panic about the tapes getting out and receiving harsh consequences for their actions against Hannah. The classmates worry that Clay will reveal the tapes. The thirteen episodes revolve around how Hannah’s peers drove her to take her life. Hannah’s parents are also featured. They try to file a lawsuit against the school for not monitoring the bullying problem and for completely disregarding Hannah’s emotional and physical state of mind.
Initially, Hannah was portrayed as a relatable, normal teen. Even though she was artistic and pretty, we soon learn that she was not a typical teen. Hannah was dealing with unbearable feelings that she did not seek help for such as moodiness, anger and withdrawal. She had many warning signs of a teen in trouble: drinking, sneaking out at night and risky behavior. This combined with her sudden drastic change in appearance, were warning signs of a seriously troubled teen.
The program depicts Hannah being constantly bullied at school over rumors about her. The bullies frequently taunt her for being promiscuous and Hannah hates the title. She is labeled the “school slut” because she “hooked up” with a boy who took a picture of her in her underwear and sent it around school. They continue to taunt her when their teacher reads a poem she wrote out loud to the class. The constant bullying turns into a snowball effect. For me, it is extremely sad and gut wrenching to watch. Hannah tries to make friends but her peers reject her and glance at her as if she’s “weird” or not “cool” enough.
We also learn that Hannah was raped by a classmate, and further, witnesses her friend being raped at a party. We witness first-hand how these experiences have a huge effect on her.
The show really does a great job showing Hannah’s pain and what pushes her over the edge: the rape, constant bullying, family troubles, friends turning on her, sexual harassment by multiple classmates and, finally, the school counselor for not taking her suicidal thoughts and all her problems seriously.
What I didn’t like about the program was that they showed Hannah’s gory suicide scene. It worries me when the media depicts a suicide scene because it might put the idea in someone’s head. The tapes frighten me as well. A suicidal person in a similar situation to Hannah’s may think it is acceptable, like Hannah, to take his or her own life.
I also don’t care for the title, Thirteen Reasons Why, because that claims she had reasons to kill herself when in reality there are never reasons why this should be acceptable. The program doesn’t do enough to show the aftermath of a suicide: the horrible pain it causes the parents and loved ones; the unfairness of this death.
I understand they wanted to show Hannah’s side of the story and what she went through, but at the same time the program should have warned teenagers about the horrible affect suicide has on their loved ones. This message, I hope, will at least allow teens to think about their loved ones before ending their lives.
I do appreciate this program making an effort to talk about mental illness, suicide and the risk factors that are linked to a suicide. It brings awareness to both teens and parents when suicidal individuals are depicted realistically like Hannah was. Someone could be watching and seeing themselves in Hannah and, perhaps, be motivated to seek help. So many people can relate to Hannah’s situation.
Talking about mental illness is crucial. Talking to a therapist, family member or someone you trust abut how you feel inside helps with battling depression and preventing tragedies. We need to create a society open to talking about mental health as well as open to talking about bullying and rape. We need to create a society where people talk freely about their actual issues, which can help a person heal.
Schools also need to be more aware of their students’ needs. If they see a student getting bullied, for example, teachers need to stop it. In an ideal world, we love more and hate less. We show empathy to the those that are suffering. If we can create a culture free from stigma, we can save a lot of sufferers.