Social media has been exploding with responses to return of popular Netflix show 13 Reasons Why for a season two. However, not all students are happy about it. The series sparked much controversy when it was released just a few months ago. Soon after, schools discussed banning it and parents brought up concerns about how it portrays depression and suicide. SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education) drafted talking points about the series the day before it was released.
The last point is the point of most controversy. Many were angered by the fact that the show puts 100 percent blame on the people in Hannah’s life and does not spend enough time on the underlying mental illness present.
One student who I spoke to both read the book and watched the series. She liked it at first but after reading the criticisms she realized and agreed with all of the things everyone else found wrong with it.
"Although they don't take the rape and suicide lightly which I think is SUPER important in todays society, they didn't touch upon Hannah's depression, which is a usual cause for suicide. They only mainly focused on why OTHER PEOPLE caused her death when in reality suicide and depression is so much more complex than that." —Skye C., Marymount Manhattan College '19
Nobody is in any way saying that being bullied and experiencing traumatic events does not trigger suicidal thoughts, however, most cases of suicide are a result of an underlying mental illness. According to the DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance), untreated depression is the most common reason for suicides among youth. More than half of adolescents with mental illnesses go untreated. There are many reasons for this. Some people don't know the difference between sadness and depression. Others think people will look at them differently if they confess their thoughts. Sometimes someone might not have a good support system and be afraid to seek outside help. No matter what the excuse is, we have the education now to clearly see that any mental illness gone untreated is hazardous. Fear should not be a reason for anybody to compromise their life and health.
Another aspect that has enraged students is the "romanticization" of suicide in the series. One of the reasons why a season two has been so controversial is because now it appears to be trying to entertain viewers as opposed to informing about an instance of suicide.
"I decided to watch after seeing the backlash. Genuinely, I think it does romanticize suicide as a sick sort of revenge. With the way that the character and episode arcs were written, the show is a terrible representation of mental health issues and suicide. Not just in Hannah, but in most of the kids. I think the way that the show strayed from the source material was the biggest problem. Not to mention they literally set themselves up for a season two, which feels kind of disgusting in a show like this. Frankly, I’m confused at its renewal. I think calling it “13 Reasons Why” at this point is sort of a lie, because now they’re creating their own plot lines and ideas, rather than pulling from Asher’s book." — Katherine S., Alfred University '20
Reporting on Suicide gives a list of how suicides are often covered and what a better alternative would be. Experts have raised concerns about how this show handles the events covered, again with placing blame being key. The demographic of the book and the show are in the age group of which the second leading cause of death is suicide. The problem is that younger people have trouble separating fiction from reality. They also say that this type of show should not be justified.
Many students have also labeled the show as triggering.
"I'm against it because of how it displayed certain acts like her a rape and her suicide. For those who've been through the experience it can be traumatic to watch and may even cause them to relapse. The directors could've approached that extremely different." —Zandria H., University of Arkansas Pine Bluff '21
Many critics have advised that those who suffer from depression should not watch this show. They say it isn't enough to watch the show and relate to it. You need a support system to be able to process the emotions, thoughts and events in both your life and the show. Another concern raised by critics, due to the graphic display in the show, is copycat suicides. Other works of fiction have received this criticism, but what angers critics most in this situation is no other alternative is shown. Research has shown that viewing these images can trigger someone with suicidal thoughts. However, of course, a show alone is not to blame for somebody else's suicide. The show is still a dangerous trigger to those with mental illness both treated and untreated.
Although media can have a heavy influence on those with mental illness and suicidal thoughts, treatment is necessary in addition to eliminating those triggers from your life. For free and confidential support call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You matter.
Lead Image Credit: July Moon Productions