The popular Netflix TV show, ‘13 Reasons Why’, has started the conversation on suicide and bullying in high school. Our editorial staff sat down and spoke together about the hotly debated show that stemmed from the book, written by Jay Asher.
Before we begin, we would like to start off with the fact that none of us are psychologists, or qualified to aid you in your suicidal thoughts and problems. Redwood High School has a school psychologist, Joy Bratton, that is around on Wednesday and Friday. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is also available 24 hours, and can be reached at (800)-273-8255. Help can always be found in the counseling office, as well as with teachers.
Certain messages that are presented in the Netflix series are positive. For one, treating people with respect and kindness is always a good idea, and spreading hope and positivity is also necessary for someone who is in a dark place, instead of bottling up your destructive thoughts. Taking responsibility for your actions and understanding when the jokes you make about someone, or the way you treat someone is hurting them is also a good theme the show presents.
However, the first problem we find with the show is the way suicide is presented. Hannah Baker is a girl who deems her life to be too messed up by the people she surrounds herself with, which leads her to committing suicide. The idea of Hannah’s death isn’t because of how she feels about herself, but rather how she wants other people to feel about her. She wanted the people who were surrounding her to suffer, just as she had.
Some acts that we feel led her to this decision include being continuously sexually harassed, bullied, and her feeling of guilt. Her martyr-like death in the book makes suicide seem like an artistic act that is meant to make a statement about the world. Hannah wanted the pain not only to go away, but to be spread across the her peers. The show, in a way, validates Hannah’s want for revenge by showing the consequences and pain that the other characters feel, and that those who wronged Hannah in her life should feel guilt for her death.
Suicide is not an act that should be taken lightly, as we feel the show portrayed. By acting as if Hannah only died to prove a point, teenagers may feel that the only way out of temporary pain is a permanent solution. Her unwillingness to seek help until she had already made her mind up is not a course of action that should be promoted as a society. This is the reason suicide should be talked about and handled correctly more often in our world, and not as a source of entertainment. To us, it seems like viewers only watch to find out what happens next, not to understand what’s happening in Hannah’s life.
It’s important to note that Hannah, while full of facades, did exhibit many signs that she had suicidal tendencies. This reflects poorly on the school district she attended, as well as her teachers and friends. The way she was distancing herself from her friends, her change in appearance, and some of the things she said in the series, are only a few of the warning signs that should have been caught early on by those around her. When she went into the counselor’s office at the end of the series, and gave clear signs that she wanted to end her life, no action was taken towards her. This may make young teens feel like no one cares about their lives, and all counselors act this way towards everyone, which is not the case. Just because one person doesn’t show you empathy during a situation doesn’t mean you should never look for help from anyone else.
We feel ‘13 Reasons Why’ promotes an unhealthy view of suicide, unlike the 2011 movie ‘Cyberbully’, where the main character has a tension-filled scene that shows her attempting to commit suicide before her friend intervenes. ‘Cyberbully’ presents a more realistic approach on how to show suicide in the media. Hannah’s death scene, which is different than what the novel states, is, in our opinion, romanticizing suicide and death in teens. Death should NOT be taken lightly, and we feel that the series is trying to make light of a terrible situation.
Many of the show’s producers say that they created the show to raise awareness for bullying and suicide. We strongly disagree, because if that were the case, they’d do a better job of giving out information to help troubled teens, like running an announcement in the beginning of the episode with hotline numbers, or links to go online and get professional help. It seems to us that the producers are trying to monetize suicide, especially since they cleared the series for another season.
If they cared at all towards wanting to spread awareness for suicide, they would have given a clear disclaimer that the show is fictional, and Hannah Baker’s life isn’t one to model your own after. They should have also included the hotline numbers for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline before and after each episode to help people cope with the difficult themes that should be discussed in a more controlled environment with people that are experts in mental illness.
The Redwood Gigantea feels that mental illness in youth is a topic that should be talked about more in our daily lives. We support raising awareness for those who are struggling with anxiety and depression, as well as other illnesses, but the way that ‘13 Reasons Why’ presents these topics is in an unhealthy way that causes people to act irrational. Please understand that you are loved, you are appreciated, and you are welcome at Redwood High School, despite your mental illnesses. We are stronger together than we are apart.