If you’re only interested to know what is my take on the controversial series, “Thirteen Reasons Why”, you can skip the lengthy post and just read the quoted text.
“13 Reasons Why” is obviously not a series intended for all audiences. And by groups of audience I don’t only mean according to age, but according their state of mental health. 13 reasons Why has a lot of sensitive scenes that for someone who is depressed, or had experienced the same fate as Hanah Baker could trigger or suggest a wrong method of handling their mental health problem. But for advocates, family, friends and support groups the story of Hanah Baker is a wake up call that we should do something. It is a good case study that shows (some but not all) the different factors that could contribute to one taking his/her life. And while you’re in it, try thinking of your friends, of your family, or colleagues and acquiantances. Try to look for Hanah Baker in your own circle; listen, understand, and be there for her.
13 Reasons Why revolves around the story of Hanah Baker, a high school girl, and the reasons why she took her own life. Before she died of suicide, she recorded 13 tapes intended to 13 different people she thought contributed to her death.
The series gathered a lot of controversies from the public as it showed sensitive scenes that could trigger someone to die of suicide or justify suicide as a means to end the suffering. The show had also shown detailed scenes of how the lead actress, Hanah Baker, slit her wrist and ended her life.
“13 Reasons Why” is obviously not a series intended for all audiences. It has target audiences and anyone who would want to watch it should watch with caution and should be open-minded about the film.
By target audience, I don’t only mean according to age, gender or social classification but according to their state of mental health. If by chance you are aware that you are depressed, or had experienced what Hannah Baker had experience then, by all means, I ask you to NOT watch the series. Even if you think that you are currently okay and that you are now emotionally and mentally stable, DO NOT watch the show as it will haunt you and feed you wrong messages. If you are unsure about the state of your well-being, then choose the safe side and do not watch the show. If you watched the show and you’re starting to see yourself in Hannah Baker’s shoes, you have to stop.
13 reasons Why has a lot of sensitive scenes that for someone who is depressed, or had experienced the same fate as Hanah Baker could trigger or suggest a wrong method of handling their mental health problem. (Spoiler) Especially on the last episode where Hanah Baker already sought the help of a health professional, but still failed and still decided to take her own life, it might give (or is giving) a wrong message that it becomes justifiable already that she took her own life because she did everything and that everything failed her. Suicidal is a difficult state to be in and a sensitive topic, and the series should have been cautious to not lead the story to dying of suicide as it might be mimic by someone watching the show. It should have given hope and second chances so that people who were feeling like Hanah Baker would hold on and continue to live.
If you are experiencing emotional crisis and in need of immediate assistance, please call the HOPELINE at (02) 804-4673 or 0917 558 4673, or you may visit a psych facility or clinic nearest you. Here is the database of the nearest psych clinic in the Philippines: bit.ly/MHPHServiceDatabase.
Suicide should never be portrayed as the solution and should not be justified as the only way out. The series somehow delivered the wrong message, and will somehow make you feel that it was okay for Hanah Baker to take her life because she was bullied, she was raped, she wasn’t heared of, her friends failed her, her guidance counselor failed her, society failed her– her life was difficult and that taking her life away is a justifiable choice, and you can just blame anybody and somebody about it.
It was also insensitive for the show to repeatedly describe victims of suicide as selfish, fame-whores, over reacting, and individuals looking for attention. Notions that were never resolved or corrected at the end of the show.
“Suicide isn’t selfish. It’s sad, yes, but not selfish. It’s selfish of those left behind to try to make light of the deceased’s situation. Suicide is not a selfish act. It’s not for attention. It’s for relief. As sad as that sounds, it is. Someone who commits suicide, who goes> all in> for an act that takes it all away, is looking for a way to feel better. At the point when someone is suicidal, they aren’t thinking about other people, but they aren’t thinking about themselves either. (Which, by definition, rules out their SELFishness.) They are lost, confused, and consumed by a dark feeling that takes away their ability to truly think about the world around them. They get swept up in a bad place and, sometimes, unfortunately, can’t find their way out” (Sarah Laughon, 2014)
What’s missing in the series also is that it failed to emphasize that Hanah Baker may actually be suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. The series could have used it as a medium to raise awareness on this topic and help people understand it better.
But for advocates, family, friends and support groups the story of Hanah Baker is a wake up call for us to be sensitive, vigilant, and kind to people around us. It is a good case study that showed (only some, not all) factors that could contribute to one taking his/her life.
The series slaps you in the face of the existing and still unresolved problem in the society: the culture of bullying in schools (not limited to high school), lack of/insufficient policy and system in schools to protect the kids, the lack of support systems from the family or friends, and the stigmas attached to mental health.
These gaps in the society could be, for advocates and experts, be looked into and targetted to save a Hanah Baker. A lot has been done, but still, a lot is left for us to do.
Since the release of “13 Reasons Why” it caused a lot of discussion in schools, news, and social media about mental health. It was a timely topic to portray in an international TV series to raise awareness about mental health and suicide, but it could’ve been done better and more sensitive. I do not want to call the series a piece of trash as, for me, it somehow invalidates and denies thefact that somehow there are Hanah Bakers in this world who needs help, but a work in progress. And no, I do not want it to be taken down (as many people already have watched it), rather I’d that Netflix should release a more sensitive version of it and a follow-up story to correct the stigma and misconceptions in the first season, and put a better closure and hope to those who were affected by it.
And if this post made you curious and decide to watch “13 Reasons Why”, my only advice is for you to watch it with caution and an open mind. And while you’re on it, try thinking of your friends, of your family, or colleagues and acquaintances. Try to look for Hanah Baker in your own circle; listen, understand, and let them know you’ll be there for her.
Because after all, we do not want to end up listening to tapes and being told we’re too late.
Bonus thought: My colleagues in the medical field had been wondering why the series showed Hanah Baker slitting her arms longitudinally and wondered if that could actually caused her to die. My theory is that the producers intentionally showed is it in that way so that in case there will be someone who would mimic the act, they would least likely die of hemorrhage and will just pass out. Just a theory though.