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13 Reasons Why This Netflix Show Failed

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13 reasons whyIn case you missed it, there is new Netflix show called ’13 Reasons Why’ that has taken off in popularity among teens and adults in the last few weeks. Based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher, and co-produced by Selena Gomez, the show’s focus is on a very serious subject our nation faces – suicide. Specifically, teen suicide.

Suicide is one of those hushed topics that requires more public acknowledgement and education, but ’13 Reasons Why’ might have gone too far and resulted in hurting those who may be struggling with mental health issues, are feeling vulnerable, or contemplating suicide.

Here’s 13 reasons why we think the show failed everyone. Spoiler alert!

*If you are thinking about suicide, help is available here now: Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

13 Reasons Why

If you have or have not seen it yet, ’13 Reasons Why’ is about a young woman named Hannah who takes her own life. After her suicide, a friend named Clay finds a mysterious box at the door in front of his home. Inside the box are tapes recorded by Hannah in which she gives 13 reasons why she decided to kill herself. Each tape describes a different person who affected her life and ultimately her final decision. Now that you have the story line, here is what we feel missed the mark on this very serious topic.

  1. There was very little insight into the psychology of suicide in ’13 Reasons Why’ and how the process really unfolds. At the conclusion of each episode, it would have been beneficial to take a few minutes to talk about key points addressed in that episode, providing information and suicide prevention tips.
  2. Since there is no talk about solutions, many parents, or those who have direct contact with teens or anyone struggling, may get the wrong message about the process of suicide and offer little help when someone is really in danger.
  3. The show was also created to help bring awareness about a very serious topic affecting our youth, but didn’t really offer statistics or facts about suicide, depression, or mental illness.
  4. The show also focused on all the reasons and validations one would need in order to commit suicide. This can be seriously dangerous if a vulnerable teen watched this show and was going through a similar situation as Hannah.
  5. In addition to validation, it also showed how easy it was to commit suicide and have others feel sorry for the loss. Death is permanent and will not fix anything, nor will it really help others understand what the person is going through. There is healing outside of suicidal thoughts, but the show never showed that side and only showed how easy it was to kill yourself.
  6. This show also really glamorized and dramatized suicide, and makes the journey Hannah was on seem powerful and everlasting to her peers. Even after death, Hannah’s sad story about her life got her the attention she was so desperately seeking the whole time. However, the truth is that death is permanent and people do move on. People who are considering suicide while watching this show may come to think a dramatic exit is the only way to get the love and validation they need right now.
  7. Not only did they glamorize death, but they gave ideas for suicide by showing how it is done in some seriously unnecessary details. In one of the episodes, we finally see how Hannah killed herself and it was done in such a way that made suicide look easy and appealing if you are already having those thoughts. There was literally no reason to show this scene and all they did was glamorize suicide and let others know exactly how they can do it.
  8. Hannah and a friend were both victims of rape. She didn’t tell anyone, including her friend who was raped while blacked out, about the incident. When she finally did open up about her trauma, it was with a male counselor at her school who she appeared to never have any kind of bond with. In reality, it’s unlikely that Hannah would have reached out to an unfamiliar male to talk about being raped, and the fact that he didn’t actually help or believe her, just reinforces the unhealthy idea that victims should keep quiet.
  9.  Revenge by death is not the main reason behind most suicides, and makes suicide seem even more selfish than people already perceive it to be. There is rarely just one reason for suicide, and in many cases an underlying mental health disorder contributes more to the situation than just being hurt by people. Bullying is never right and can cause some serious harm, but there were many other “reasons” that Hannah used that did not show any real bullying. Example: her friend published her poem anonymously. Granted, it was wrong that he published without her permission, but he loved her work and adored her. Hannah could not see that and took it as a personal attack suggesting that she was already at a vulnerable state mentally which had little to do with her friend’s perceived bullying.
  10. ’13 Reasons Why’ is visually traumatizing and for those who are vulnerable or impressionable, those who have been sexually assaulted, or those who battle depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health issues, could be triggered greatly by many of the scenes in this show.
  11. The lengthy process in which Hanna goes into before she takes her own life is not usual for those who are considering suicide. It was extremely mapped out and when most people are struggling, they do not have the emotional capability to plan out their suicide in such extreme details, like speaking on a series of tapes exact reasons why they were hurt and how it is all connected. They may get a few affairs in order, but rarely do they give this much thought and action into the planning. This is important because it suggests that Hannah was emotionally stable and it was everyone else’s fault for her decision. This could also lead to the belief that we always have the power to save others. For those who may have lost someone to suicide or could in the future, they may watch this and believe that they are the reason for the other person’s death which could lead to depression, or worse, suicide.
  12. There was no talk about depression, anxiety, drug abuse, or alcoholic behaviors. These words were never used or discussed. Suicide does not exist by itself and not once did the show talk about these issues by their name. There were lots of images and situations that alluded to it, but they never addressed by name of what those things are and how they play a role.
  13. The responsibility was taken off Hannah and was given to everyone else in Hannah’s tapes. For those who have been left behind by suicide when they did do everything in their power to help, or who may not have even known there was a problem, find it already difficult to let go of their loved one and blame themselves for their actions. In some cases, yes, bullying and/or a push for someone to commit suicide has been reported, but in most cases, the person who has made the decision to do so didn’t do it because someone told them to, they did it because they saw no hope outside their situation and/or thoughts.

Suicide Prevention

Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), so it definitely needs to be talked about and addressed. And according to CNN, some professionals suggest that the show, ’13 Reasons Why’, could pose a health threat for certain young adults, especially those who are already experiencing suicidal thoughts, and we agree. It’s great that they created something to bring the topic up and get people talking, but more than just a “popular teen drama show” needs to come out of this and it needs to point to a real solution in helping those struggling with suicidal thoughts and actions.

Parents, talk to your kids and get to know them. Make sure you create a space where they feel safe to talk to you as well. Communication and action is crucial when trying to help someone through a mental health issue.

The Watershed’s 24/7 helpline has received thousands of suicide calls since we opened our doors in 1998. We understand the seriousness of those in need and how just one person can make a difference in helping save a life. If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them and let them know you care, listen to them, and offer them help.  No person should have to struggle with this alone and the time to make a difference is now.

Please know that our helpline is open 24/7 at 1-800-861-1768. Whether you have questions or need help, we are always here.

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