You’ve probably heard someone at school, college, work or on social media discuss Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why – a series currently sweeping the nation that focuses on topics surrounding mental health. As we’re all aware, this is a pretty big topic that does need to be talked about.
If you’ve watched the show, you may think you have a better idea about mental health, but don’t class yourself as an expert yet because there are quite a few things about the show that aren’t exactly true to life. If you’re debating on watching the show, this article may make your mind up for you.
(This may contain spoilers, but considering the seriousness of the topic, I advise you read anyway.)
1. Suicide is NOT romantic
Suicide is an issue seen all across the world and, as someone who has suffered with mental health issues for over 11 years, I’m so happy to see society talking and being more open about it. But, by no means should we be glorifying mental health issues. The show, based on the novel written by Jay Asher, gives off these heavy vibes that imply “if you die, people will all feel so bad about this and think about what a wonderful person you were.” Not the kind of message you want to send to people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts…
2. The portrayal of suicidal behaviour and thoughts are highly inaccurate
The behaviour of main character, Hannah Baker, doesn’t represent people who are actually dealing with the thoughts and emotions of considering and executing a plan of suicide. Yes, everyone deals with things in different ways, but the vigorous efforts of Hannah prove to be quite unconvincing that she was dealing with any kind of problem prior to her death. Though it’s clear that Hannah was dealing with mental health issues along with what others were putting her through, we as the viewer don’t get any exposure at all.
3. Suicide is not simple
It’s not logical. There’s not always a bullet list consisting of ‘reasons’. There isn’t always a note. The show seems to be rather eager in oversimplifying its constant cause-effect storyline. In reality, those who commit suicide are more often than not suffering a type of underlying psychiatric disorder which is triggered by environmental issues. The show simply skips Hannah’s mental health issues for the most part, only to somewhat address it in the final episodes, therefore making it an excellent and convenient way to avoid handling such a real, sensitive and important issue in a thoughtful way.
4. The blame game is dangerous
As the viewer for the majority of 13 Reasons Why, we are misled into thinking someone is to blame for Hannah’s suicide and even go to the length of literally stating “We all killed Hannah Baker” at the end of the show as if it is some sort of conclusion. This perpetuates the idea of there always being liability when someone commits suicide. You cannot simply say a magic word to prevent a suicidal person from executing any of their plans. People should be made aware of signs of depression and suicidal thoughts, but not think that their kindness and good gestures will “cure” someone. This notion prevents depressed people from getting real help and puts such a huge weight on the shoulders of those left behind.
5. The power of love is not a cure
The character Clay is made to feel guilty for not confessing his love for Hannah to her, which causes him to think if he had told her, it would have saved her life. The truth is, no matter how in love you are or someone is with you, your depression won’t be resolved by that, as much as it may help. If Clay did choose to tell her about his feelings, it wouldn’t have helped because love isn’t truly enough for her, then causing Hannah to feel guilty and ungrateful, when they shouldn’t. Even if he told her about his love, she would have still committed suicide, so how would have that impacted Clay or even people in real life who are in this kind of situation?
6. Suicide shouldn’t be shown on TV
What. On. Earth? The show actually went to the length of showing the actual suicide. Talk about triggering? There’s a cold ambience with a lack of build-up to Hannah self harming leaving it to feel like it’s an actual how-to guide in committing suicide. Many people have complained about the graphic scenes and how they are quite triggering.
7. The rape scenes are horrific and gut-wrenching
There’s always been controversy about the representation of rape on screen, with many believing an audience should not be made to witness rape and sexual assault in order for it to be made ‘more real’ and creating empathy. Most can agree that victims and survivors should be believed and understood without the need to go into detail in regards to their experience. The scenes alone are also shot similarly in comparison to healthy and consensual sex scenes with close-ups, skin, breathing, movement, etc. which depicts rape as sexual, which it’s not. If the scenes must be included, why can’t we treat them with more sensitivity.
8. The representation of characters of colour are highly problematic
The majority of the characters of colour are seen as highly manipulative, selfish and fallacious. It’s great to have a diverse cast, but completely pointless if they are going to be characterised as horrible people. Not really doing much good for the PoC community, racism and diversity on screen.
9. Lesbian relationships shouldn’t be sexualised
It is widely argued that female homosexual relationships have been portrayed very differently than male homosexual relationships and have always been over-sexualised on screen. The scene where the character, Courtney – who is gay, kisses Hannah is portrayed in quite a raunchy way in comparison to other scenes of this nature within the show. There was also no clarification in regards to Hannah’s sexuality. She and Courtney kiss before proceeding to be involved with men as she was. This gives the impression that it was included merely for the shock value and is pretty degrading for bisexual and lesbian women.
10. There needed to be more trigger warnings
The show is heavy, intense and graphic. There simply were not enough trigger warnings to justify the depth of the show. Considering the show is meant to be raising awareness of mental health issues, the producers didn’t really take much consideration to the viewers who are dealing with them.
11. Almost every teenager is illustrated negatively
Reading this article on Wicid, I assume you are a young person around the teenage age. Would you say this is an accurate description of most teenagers? Many of us are more than willing to speak up for the ones being taken advantage of or comfort those who are hurting and have the ability to report problems to adults. True, this may be an accurate representation of some teens, but not of most, setting the bar very low for us as teenagers, while we should be consuming media to inspire and challenge us. Lying and deceiving is the second nature for the teenage characters in the show, with the mortality of the issues not being discussed but instead embraced as if this were the reality of teenage lifestyle.
12. Revenge seems to be the main theme of the show
With the delight Hannah seems to hold from the guilt caused by her tapes, this is glorifying the idea of revenge and getting the last laugh. Which, by the way, suicide is not for revenge.
13. The show is not educational
People are defending the show, saying that it’s educational. But in reality, it isn’t. It’s so inaccurate and misleading that health professionals are actually urging people not to watch it. Between the graphic scenes of suicide, self-harm and rape to the fact that it actually doesn’t talk about mental health or much about the issues surrounding suicide, there are too many flaws to rely on this show to educate people on mental health. A U.S non-profit suicide prevention group, S.A.V.E, have raised concerns that the show may do “more harm than good”, while Dr. Steven Leicester, head of online counselling services at Headspace said in a statement: “There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience – and a young audience in particular.”
Overall, I do not recommend this show. It’s unrealistic, misleading and potentially harmful for people who may be sensitive or triggered from the show’s content. If you wish to learn more about mental health, I highly recommend checking out websites belonging to charities such as Mind, Time To Change Wales and Sane.
If you are suffering from suicidal thoughts or other mental health issues, please contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or Samaritans on 116 123. You can also speak to Meic – a free helpline service for children and young people up to the age of 25 in Wales.