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13 reasons why

Is ‘13 Reasons Why’ an Alarming Series that Triggers People with Mental Illness?

“Some part of me will always be sad,

And another part of me is happier than I’ve ever been before”

Finished watching the fourth and final season of 13 Reasons Why.

The show has completely stirred up a storm of thoughts, mixed opinions, and emotions for me. So, contributing to this profound debate that how this show is igniting and triggering suicidal thoughts and mental illnesses in teens is definitely a worth-considering act.

13 Reasons why is based on Jay Asher’s best-selling novel that has been trending around the whole world since 2007. According to the mental health community, people are extremely outraged because of its exasperating effects on the audience who is at risk for depression, anxiety, mental illness, and suicide. 

The story is based on an ill-fated teenage girl Hannah Baker who was experiencing social isolation, bullying, slut-shaming, sexual assault, and suicidal glamourization because of multiple traumatic social factors. After being desperate from her life, she decided to kill herself by leaving 13 tapes with instructions that these should be delivered to the people who are responsible for the decision to take her own life.

Well, according to the critiques, the way Hannah planned her death meticulously and structured all the details in 13 tapes is more than a fantasy; because in reality, people who commit suicide experience great depletion in impulse control or decision making that they may not even leave the last note behind.

I won’t disagree with the fact. But if we analyze the mental state of a disturbed teenage girl who is hurt by so many people around her, showing clear desires about disappearing forever through her poems, and couldn’t find the courage to explicitly tell them about everything they have done to her, then yes! this step may cause her to plan her death in that devastating manner.

While many people see this as a great controversy, but ’13 reasons why’ also sheds a light on some good, the sad and ugly elements.

The Good:

First of all, the series invites families, friends, and social communities to discuss life and all positive and negative impacts on teenagers in the 21st century.

Specifically, the exhaustion and pressures they deal with and the micro-aggressive behavior they experience in schools, colleges, buses, online, offices, and several places where bullying, assault, social injustice, harassment, and suicide are being normalized.

The series has successfully catapulted the topic of violence and suicide to the forefront. The show has not only sparked discussions among teens but also families and communities are considering it seriously and taking interest to resolve issues.

Hundreds of professional organizations, mental health institutes, as well as suicide prevention centers have also built certain talking points that helped teach certain facts about suicide.

Finally, the show has sparked a surge of calls all around the world to mental health hotlines that are committed to helping people recognize their need for mental health care. 

The Sad:

According to the Diseases control center, suicide has now become the major cause of death in teenagers between 15 to 24, and also became a third significant cause of death in children between 10- 14 years. While the story is all about teen suicide, rape, and violence, but it does little to shed light on the cure of depression, anxiety, and mental illness.

Research says that 4% of preschoolers, 5% of school-goers, and 11% of adolescents have met the criteria of experiencing severe depression while watching ’13 Reasons Why’. The saddest part is, they did not mention the elements to cure depression in any of the episodes. 

A vulnerable audience who watched the show is failed to decide whether suicide is preventable or not.

Another sad element to highlight is, the show has glamorized suicide in an attempt to make it an attractive and most-watched series. They glamorized the act while showing decorated lockers of Hannah. Apart from that, many characters also contributed to glamorizing the act, students taking selfies by Hannah’s locker, audio-taped travel hunts, and above all, the flashback scenes that kept Hannah “alive” and expressing certain situations to the main character ‘Clay’. The research analyzes that such depictions are totally romanticizing her suicide and may creating a normal trend for other people so they can get attracted and follow the same method when feel helpless.

The Ugly:

While after highlighting the good and the sad parts of the season, it’s obvious to enlighten some ugly truths spurred by ’13 Reasons Why’

Season 1 of the series had discouraging input from mental healthcare professionals as well as suicide prevention centers. According to the experts, the way they have portrayed suicide did enormous damage to teens and adults who are already experiencing the same symptoms in their life. After repeated warnings before the start of different episodes, they were still failed to encourage any positivity through their acts.

Now the moment they consider plotting the season 2 and 3, producers and writers missed the golden opportunity to address all the serious concerns and unfortunate happenings of season 1. But instead of curing things, they went the extra mile by showing more violence and damage in season 3.

Mental health professionals, suicide prevention experts, parents, and communities had a lot of concerns regarding the tremendous increase in teens’ depression and anxiety. The show could shift from some dangerous and provocative elements to the factual and teachable lessons at the end.

A word of caution:

We cannot ignore the fact that sexual assault, harassment, rape, violence, and bullying are an unfortunate part of society, but after being relentlessly bullied and assaulted, teens often find no way to return to their normal life; and hence consider suicide a relief from all pains, pressures, and sufferings.

But this should NEVER be a choice, instead, our counseling and mental health awareness programs should be strong enough to eradicate the feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, self-hatred, and shame.