13 Reasons Why, One Strong Message
9th July 2018
By Oscar Johnson.
“13 Reasons Why” is a 2007 novel by Jay Asher and in 2017 was developed into a Netflix series. It follows the aftermath of a girl named Hannah Baker’s suicide. She had recorded and shared 13 cassette tapes laying blame on 13 separate people.
The series aims to delve into the mind of a teenager and raise awareness for young people’s mental health and the struggles that young people go through in the 21st century such as online bullying and peer pressure. Another key aim from the show is to “start a conversation” between schools, communities, families and friends about taboo topics like suicide and depression. A major positive of this series is that it has opened the door for discussion and has led to conversation and debate about how these issues are tackled at school and home and where change may be necessary.
However many have been concerned that the series glorifies suicide with Hannah Baker becoming a local known name and all who did her wrong feeling guilty. It gives the idea that suicide is not only a viable option but will have a positive impact on the community around you by making a bully regret his actions and changing the ways of young people around you for the better. Then throw in pep rallies, a fancy decorated locker and some have argued they’ve simply made suicide seem more attractive. Though some aspects of the show, such as unexplained packages and an air of mystery, are to increase curiosity and maintain the viewer’s interest the programme should be careful with which qualities it chooses to pair with suicide. When quite the opposite is the case, those that are forever changed aren’t your enemies but those closest who care about you most.
Although suicides involve planning, the creation of tapes followed by her planning to have them sent out is simply not realistic. In the words of Deborah Serani “It’d be highly unlikely for a suicidal person to have the stamina, insight, and presence of mind to create such an elaborate scheme like Hannah did.”
The final issue with the show is that it shows Hannah as unable to receive any help. The school therapist has a complicated personal life and a poor understanding of the issues that were brought to him. This is not reflective of real life as there are many avenues to go down to receive help from professionals. The first option being your local GP along with charity organisations such as the Samaritans who offer 24/7 services via the phone, email or post.