By Kyla de Vera
Netflix released the new series Thirteen Reasons Why on March 31, 2017. It is an adaptation of the bestselling 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher. The series follows teenager Clay Jensen as he finds a box with his name on it lying on his porch. He discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker, his classmate, who tragically took her life a few weeks earlier. On these tapes, Hannah explains the thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. This show has received backlash that viewers with mental health problems will have an impression of glorifying the choice Hannah made, but experts argue that watching this show will not increase the chances of youths trying to commit suicide. This show can be beneficial because important topics on mental health are finally being discussed.
Co-producer of the show, Selena Gomez, was in a similar situation to Hannah Baker, and thought this show had a powerful message she had to share by making the show. In a post-credits video titled Beyond the Reasons, Selena Gomez explains, “We wanted to do it in a way where it was honest. And we wanted to make something that can hopefully help people, because suicide should never, ever be an option.” The show’s critics argue that young people who watch are presented with a sensationalized version of suicide because Hannah gains power and attentions through her suicide. Some of these critics are mental health experts who say the show could pose health risks for certain young people. A statement from the National Association of School Psychologists includes cautions and guidance for educators and families of teens who might watch the show. However, according to Eric Beeson, a professional counselor at The Family Institute at Northwestern University says, “It’s unlikely that one show alone could trigger someone to attempt suicide.” Discussions about what is going on in the show is vital to help stop prevention of teens who feel like Hannah.
Many others suggest the show provides a valuable opportunity to discuss these important topics with young people. It is also essential to teach young adults how to identify warning signs of depression or suicidal thoughts among peers. According to Nic Sheff from Vanity Fair, “When it came time to discuss the portrayal of the protagonist’s suicide it seemed to me, the perfect opportunity to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off.” ProtectHer founder Alexis Jones, thinks the show has a better chance to get through to kids than any presentation ever could. Jones says, “It’s more powerful than coming in with a PowerPoint. Getting invested in characters, and then talking about the different aspects gives us the chance to say, ‘If you’re ever feeling like Hannah, let’s make sure you get help because many people cared about Hannah.’ This is a show to be talked about in an educational way. It’s emotional, it’s disturbing, and necessary for teens to realize how their actions affect others.” Despite the controversy with the ending scene, this show has an important messages to talk about.
Thirteen Reasons Why has been a popular show among teenagers although it has brought up a lot of controversy. Watching this show will not increase the likelihood of young viewers to commit suicide. Nonetheless, talking about mental health subjects is difficult, however this show is an opportunity for more people to talk about what can or is happening. This show is an adaptation of a book, which both wanted to convey a message on the importance of people who feel like Hannah Baker, how much words and actions impact lives, and how to be there for others to prevent tragedies like Hannah’s. Having a show like Thirteen Reasons Why will start more conversations on mental health, which is good because people with mental health issues need to be heard and supported.