Last year I watched ’13 Reasons Why’, after reading the book years earlier, and I enjoyed it. However, upon reflection I have began to agree that it may have detrimental repercussions on the topic of mental illness.
The title ’13 Reasons Why’ implies that Hannah Baker kills herself exclusively as a result of thirteen people in her life, which is untrue. Hannah Baker killed herself because she was suffering from depression. The thirteen people, some more than others, may have had a huge impact on Hannah which might have heavily contributed to her decision to end her life, but she killed herself because she was depressed. It belittles suicide to suggest that publishing a poem or being slapped by a friend is a valid reason to do so – it is so trivial and not an accurate representation in the slightest.
Although, this program focuses on mental health it does not accurately depict depression therefore it is failing in it’s mission to raise awareness of mental illness. Hannah suffering from depression should have been the main focus, as this led to the actions of others causing effects that were much more amplified to her. Personally, I do know a lot about the signs and the symptoms of depression so I do pick up on them as I watch the show, but they are not highlighted as signs to look out for. For example, drastically changing your appearance is a sign of depression and Hannah cuts her long hair very short as a sort of cry for attention. For the show to achieve it’s goal, it should make a greater effort to point out what you should be looking out for in others.
This program shows graphic scenes of violence, rape and suicide and I believe that the intention was good; that it was an attempt to force understanding of how horrific these events are for the victims. Nevertheless, seeing these scenes will be extremely triggering for those people who have experienced trauma. And yes, there is a trigger warning but in my experience people don’t listen to the warning and want to prove to themselves that they are strong enough to watch a TV program (no matter if it leaves them upset for the next few days). I believe that the suicide scene is particularly concerning as it portrays slitting your wrists as a quick, easy and relatively painless way to end your life – which is definitely not something that should be promoted.
Suicide is permanent and the terrifying finality of that should be reinforced. Having Hannah reappear as a ghost and in flashbacks is not reality – yes it is a TV show, but when the goal is to educate, suicide should be shown in the serious way it deserves. As a consequence, someone who is suicidal may imagine that they will continue to be a part of their loved ones, or hated ones, lives but this is pure fantasy. If you end your life you won’t be able to be in anyone else’s lives and this should be illustrated in the show.
To conclude, I believe ’13 Reasons Why’ is majorly flawed – it fails to provide a realistic portrayal of depression and almost trivialises it. Additionally, Hannah continuing to appear after she dies and how simple the suicide seems may encourage suicide. Whilst I think it fails to meet its goal, the show had good intentions and I think it was a good idea to raise awareness. This program may help to open the conversation of mental illness which is desperately needing addressed! If we raise awareness then not only will it make lives of those suffering easier as they are judged less, but it will also allow much better health care to be provided.
EVEN THE DARKEST NIGHT WILL END AND THE SUN WILL RISE