13 Reasons Why is a TV series adaptation on Netflix of the bestselling book Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. Immediately after its release, social media blew up about it so of course I felt the need to start watching. It has seen a lot of controversy due to the nature of the story line, graphic scenes and issues raised. *This post will contain spoilers so please be aware if you have not seen the whole series. Also please keep in mind everyone is entitled to their own opinion, no rights or wrongs.
Clay returns home from school to find a box lying outside his front door. He discovers cassette tapes recorded by Hannah inside who committed suicide two weeks earlier. We follow Clay as he listens to each tape as Hannah tells her emotional story of thirteen reasons why she wanted to end her life.
Many started questioning if the TV series was glamorising suicide, and whether showing the graphic scenes of self-harm and sexual assault were harmful to those who struggle with mental health issues themselves. Towards the end of the series disclaimers were shown before the episodes started to warn the viewer distressing scenes were going to be shown. I have to admit, given my history with mental health, I was a little apprehensive to start watching. I had seen the trigger warnings and backlash on Twitter that this could be dangerous to watch, but I did anyway.
I ended up getting hooked and I watched the whole series within two weeks. I did shed tears towards the end of the series, and that is because of some hard-hitting scenes of rape and self-harm, particularly within the last episode – it had me in tears. The way you saw Hannah completely disconnect from the world broke my heart. I felt I related to Hannah, I saw myself at seventeen struggling at sixth form, feeling I wasn’t good enough and that everyone was better off without me. It really hit home for me and it did upset me, however I wouldn’t say it ‘triggered’ me, but that is because I am in a better place now.
There have been numerous news bulletins depicting how calls to mental health organisations around the world have seen a rise since the release of 13 Reasons Why, but is this not a positive? Viewers realising they may have a problem are seeking help. The series highlights that you should think about what you say and do to others around you, and how it could affect their life. In schools bullying is a massive problem as shown in the TV series, and ¹UK statistics show that 44% of young people who have been bullied experience depression, 41% experience social anxiety and 33% have suicidal thoughts which is terribly sad. The last two years of my school life was made hell by emotional bullying and it left me with anxiety which I am still living with. If a TV series can show young people what their actions can do to someone else I am all for showing it.
Selena Gomez was an executive producer on the show, and she has openly discussed her mental health battle in the past with anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Before watching 13 Reasons Why I felt comforted by the fact somebody with mental health experience was directly involved with the production. ²In an interview Selena said “I think this is what (kids) need to see…They have to see something that’s going to shake them. They have to see something that’s frightening…I would do anything to have a good influence on this generation. It’s hard, but I definitely relate to everything that was going on, and I was there for the last episode. I was a mess just seeing it all come to life, because I’ve experienced just that.”
For me, anything that can highlight the issues of mental health is a positive thing. A lot of people do not understand the problems some people face on a daily basis and this could help them to. Anyone watching with a problem may decide to seek help unlike what Hannah did. It also shows that care and compassion needs to be taken with the people around you – you never know what battles are being faced in everyone’s lives.
What did you think of the series?