I’m very much like Clay when it comes to this series and Hannah’s tapes. For me, this wasn’t a show to binge. I had to take it in small pieces, sometimes shutting it off only minutes into an episode.
It took me two weeks to get through, but tonight, I finished 13 Reasons Why. I didn’t watch it for entertainment and I can’t say I enjoyed it but I needed to know how the show was going to handle mental health and suicide.
I will begin with this: Be warned, the show can definitely be a trigger.
Whether you’ve directly struggled with issues related to mental health and/or suicidal thoughts or you’ve been lucky enough that you haven’t, this show will have your mind racing. And maybe that’s what it’s supposed to do.
I’ve talked with many people who’ve watched the show. And I’ve saved dozens of articles that appear to paint this show in a negative light…but I haven’t read them yet. I intend to, but first, I wanted to watch the series and wrap my own mind around it.
As a person who has been through many of the same experiences as Hannah Baker, this show was tough to watch. And I think that is definitely one of the points this show was trying to make. Suicide is incredibly painful to watch. Depression is hard to sit back and watch without being able to do anything. Rape and sexual assault is unbearable to watch. But that’s the point, right? In Beyond the Reasons after the show they described why they chose to show the suicide and the rape. Both had my stomach in knots and I had to turn away during both. Then, upon realizing what I was doing, I forced myself to turn back to the screen and watch because it’s turning away from those experiences , blocking them out, that’s part of the problem.
Do I agree with everything the show depicted? No. Do I think it was necessary to show the act of suicide? No. Do I think it’s okay that Hannah chose to tell these people they’re the reason she died? No. But since this show came out, I’ve heard more people openly talk about suicide than I ever have in my life.
And that should be the point.
This show isn’t perfect. But neither are we. I’m not saying my opinion is the only opinion and I’m definitely not saying it’s right but this is my take on the series.
It’s opening up conversations.
There’s a high school near where I live that preventatively sent out a note regarding the show. Take that in for a moment. A school chose to speak out about suicide and make the topic top of mind for their students and parents before an act even occurred. If that’s the only good thing that comes out of this show, then I think it’s a win. But it’s not the only occurrence. Whether good or bad, people across the country are openly talking about this show, rape & suicide.
Don’t shy away from the ugliness.
13 Reasons Why covered so many taboo topics. Many of the kids in the show didn’t feel comfortable talking about these topics – rape, suicide, slut shaming – and that really bothered me. I found myself turning episodes off during the middle of them because I was so frustrated that they wouldn’t just talk about what was happening. I quickly realized I wasn’t frustrated with the show but with people in general. This happens every day. I know what it’s like to say the word “suicide” and immediately have people blush or even physically cringe, but we have to force ourselves to open up and talk about the difficult things in life because we never know when the person on the other end of the conversation may need that opportunity to open up.
Don’t stop trying. Don’t stop reaching out.
When I finished the series I was left with a lot of questions. Why the guns? Why the second suicide attempt? Why did they show certain things? Why didn’t they have suicide messages and hotline numbers attached to every episode? Why didn’t they choose to create a character who reached out and got help? I think, to some point, I still have some of these questions but I understood a lot more when I watched the after show, Beyond the Reasons.
In the after show, the actor who played Clay mentioned why he understood that some kids don’t reach out, “What do I say? What are they going to say? They’re not going to understand.” That eased some of the anger this show left me with. Whether it’s a teenager or another adult in your life, I can’t stress how important it is to make the people in your life aware of the fact that you’re there, day or night, to talk. Or just to listen. Sometimes as humans, we don’t have the words to describe what we’re feeling or maybe we’re scared the other person won’t understand it. But you know what? That’s okay. The other person doesn’t have to understand what you’re going through or why you made a certain decision. They just need to be there.
But, even so, you can try your hardest to be aware and make yourself available to those around you and you could still miss it. I write that sentence from experience. I’ve been made aware of it, looked for it and still missed it. Sometimes you can stare a suicidal person in the face and have no idea what’s going on in their mind.
That’s why it’s important to reach out. It’s not a one and done kind of conversation. Please, I beg of you, continuously reach out to those in your life.
You matter to me.
Make yourself available to the people in your life on a regular basis and continue reiterating that fact to them. Tell people you love them every chance you can.
Have the difficult conversations.
Don’t miss an opportunity to reach out, to ask questions. Don’t miss the opportunity to recognize when someone is in crisis.
“How am I supposed to live with that?”
“Any way you can.”
– 13 Reasons Why
Watch the show, don’t watch the show. It doesn’t matter to me. But do me a favor? Talk about suicide. And depression. Have conversations about mental health. Take an uncomfortable topic and help take the stigma out of it. Don’t minimize other people’s situations. Make yourself available. Look for signs, but know that you may not always see them.
Tell people they matter to you because, believe me, you’ll wish you could when they’re gone.