Warning: Suicide, and mental illness such as depression and anxiety will be discussed in this post.
My Twitter and Facebook timelines have been covered in posts about 13 Reasons Why this week. I read the book when I was 15 and was conflicted. On one hand, I was happy that the issue of suicide in teenagers was discussed, but on the other, it does a god-awful job of explaining.
To summarise, but bear in mind that I haven’t watched the show or read the book in about 5 years. The fact that it shows how people’s actions have an affect on someone, is something I enjoyed as it teaches people a lesson about being kinder to others. However, Hannah seems to blame everyone for her problems, and it nearly seems like she does it out of spite for those people. Furthermore, the fact that she made tapes to send, and shame, people in school, but didn’t leave her parents so much as a note just doesn’t sit right with me.
When I was 15, I heard someone on TV say that teenagers that have committed suicide don’t know what they’re doing because their brains aren’t developed properly yet. I can’t argue with the fact that you’re not the most mature during the teenage years, but you’re not incompetent either. There’s a very big difference between being hormonal and being suicidal. There’s a belief that young people are just looking for attention or being dramatic when they try to seek help for emotional issues. I’ It seems like it’s all “young people are so whiney” until someone, unfortunately, does commit suicide and the discourse changes to “they were so beautiful. The poor thing”. Around 90% of suicides are due to mental illness, 13 Reasons Why isn’t the most accurate representation of it. If anything, it almost romanticises suicide.
Mental illness does not discriminate. No matter who you are, mental illness can affect anyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re young, and in better circumstances than someone else. Depression is caused by a chemical imbalance. Some mental illnesses are hereditary. Everything in your life could be perfect, and you can still be depressed.
Ultimately, I feel like 13 Reasons Why had a lot of potential. If done differently, it could have resonated with a lot of young people and made people understand that young people’s feelings are just as valid as everyone else’s. The part where Hannah puts her last amount of hope into her guidance counsellor was a great example of young people being told to “get over it”, but also disturbing. After that, Hannah solidifies the idea of committing suicide, believing there is no help. It’s so bleak, that I worry anyone who is vulnerable reading it will also feel that there is no point trying to reach out to others.
Some counsellors and doctors are awful when it comes to these issues. I had a counsellor tell me to “just eat” when I was struggling with an eating disorder, or services refusing to let people – with social anxiety – book an appointment via email so because they couldn’t bring themselves to do it in person, never went. It’s completely unacceptable for “professionals” to behave like this, but I promise there are people who understand and will help out there.