‘13 Reasons’ why not

Apr 27th, 2017 | By | Category: 2016-2017, Lifestyles

By Caitlin Forbes
Lifestyles & Features Editor

 

Warning: This story contains references to suicide, depression and sexual assault

 

A recent Netflix original series has taken social media by storm. It has been the subject of memes on Twitter, whispers in classes and Netflix practically slaps me in the face with the advertisement whenever I want to watch “The Office.”

I decided to give “13 Reasons Why” a chance, and I ultimately regretted it. The show was based on the book by Jay Asher, which talks about a young girl, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide at the beginning of her junior year.

The show begins after the event, showcasing her heavily decorated locker with flowers and notes. Although Hannah is the main subject of the show, the main character is Clay Jensen: an honor roll student and an overall sweet guy. Without getting into too many spoilers, the show begins when Clay gets tapes from a mysterious person, and is told that he needs to follow specific instructions in order to protect the secrets of both him and the people who are mentioned on the tapes. Again, without spoiling anything, the tapes talk about the 13 reasons why Hannah decided to take her own life.

The show progresses and we meet the other cast members of the show; some we cheer for, and some we despise. Hannah goes through so many different problems and most people didn’t realize how much they contributed to her suffering, and more importantly we see how Hannah comes to the conclusions that she is beyond help. Her parents are, for the most part, unsuspecting, and it is scary how “normal” Hannah can seem to appear from the outside. Overall, we really connect and bond to Hannah as we learn about her via Clay, who is listening to the tapes and connecting us to her life and inside emotions.

As a show I think that the writing and the character development is really strong. However, this is where I argue that the show crosses a certain boundary. Before watching this show I heard that if you had ever struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts that this show is particularly triggering, but I didn’t realize how vivid these events were. In the show, we see multiple people getting raped, and we do see Hannah committing suicide by slitting her wrists. Although powerful, this scene is very disturbing. Before these more graphic scenes, Netflix does include a disclaimer, warning audiences ahead of time.

My problem is how much this show can damage and affect people. I fully understand that the point of the book and the show is to demonstrate how much pain someone can face while dealing with depression and how it is a culmination of events that can lead up to someone committing suicide. However, I feel as if the show does not emphasize enough that suicide is not an option. The show serves as a warning for people to understand that there were possible warning signs, and that they perhaps should’ve been a friend instead of a foe. However, for people who already understand this, it is too real and graphic, and in some cases triggering. There must be a better way to help people who don’t have as much experience with this issue understand, while not being too over the top. When I completed the series, I was really disturbed. Having had struggled with depression myself, the show scared me and made me look at a very dark and dismal path that could occur without help or getting treated.

Overall, I think that this show is extremely well written, and has phenomenal actors. Perhaps it is written too well. I would not recommend watching this show if you are easily disturbed or have struggled with any type of depression yourself.

After watching this show I was so upset I ended up crying pretty hard, both because of the death of Hannah was disturbing, but also because I was triggered. A really close friend of mine, reminded me — and I think that this is important for anyone to remember — “You are not the characters.”

It is also important to remember some important things. A counselor at Bishop gave me a really helpful document that pertained to “13 Reasons Why” and it’s messages. It is from the Jed Foundation, and I would really recommend looking at the complete document. However, the two points that I would like to emphasize are, “Suicide is never the fault of the survivors of suicide loss,” meaning that although Hannah felt that she had no other option, and it appeared as if the other characters in the show were to blame (although some of them did terrible things to her) it is no one’s fault that she resorted to taking her own life. The other point that I would like to emphasize is, “Talking openly and honestly about emotional distress and suicide is OK.” It is important to ask someone if you are concerned about them.

Please remember that even though this show is deeply personal and realistic, that you are not the characters. Hannah’s fate may have been sealed, but you can always get help, and it does get better. Overall I would not recommend watching this show unless you can commit yourself to emotional distress. If you do watch the show, talk to your friends, a loved one or a counselor about it afterwards. It can be a lot to process even if you have no history of depression or suicidal thoughts.

If you or a loved one are struggling with thoughts of suicide please call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text “START” TO 741741.

Or call WUTalk at (503)375-5353. It’s free, confidential, and available to Willamette students 24/7.

 

caforbes@willamette.edu

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