After watching the Netflix hit series, 13 Reasons Why, I was left with a hurricane of emotions that can only be described as, surreal. The show is based on the 2007 young-adult novel, 13 Reasons Why written by Jay Asher. It’s a story about a teenage girl named, Hannah Baker, whose life was cut short due to taking her own life. The show opens up shortly after young, Hannah Baker has chosen to take her own life and leaving behind a set of 12 cassette tapes with the name of each person she blames for her suicide. Each tape narrates the events that took place with whose name was on the tape. The details of the events are not to be taken lightly as these are things that do happen and it’s important to be aware that young adults do sometimes experience such harsh realities (being raped, getting bullied, feeling like an outcast, feeling unheard, and not taken seriously by anyone- just to name a few).
Since watching the show, I’ve talked to several people in passing about the alarming effects the underlying message portrays to young adults, who are battling social and mental issues, specifically during high school.
I don’t know about you, but my high school experience was not always the most fun. There’s pressure to get good grades, fit in, be accepted, respected, be part of certain social groups, and figuring out how to juggle all the things that happen in between (such as bullying, abuse, parties etc.). By no means is high school an easy ride for most young adults. That is why this series is alarming to many parents, adults, mental health professionals, and even teenagers themselves.
One lady I spoke to recently, said her teenage daughter watched 13 Reasons Why and felt scared that teen suicide would now be on the rise. Why? My guess is because the show portrays an easy way out from the pressure of life; when a young adult’s hormones are raging and they feel as if they can’t talk to anyone about what’s going on. Many of them often want to feel an escape from the pressure of reality.
No teen needs to be shown an easy way out of life. Suicide being portrayed in such a retro-stylish way is the wrong message to send to teens, who instead should be encouraged to open up and talk to their parents, school counselors, and friends about what is happening in their lives. They should be encouraged to speak up and not be silenced about the treatment they’re experiencing. Suicide is by no means the answer. The detriment suicide has on a community (friends, family, co-workers, and anyone who knew the person) is painful and yes, selfish.
My Message to Teens Who Watch 13 Reasons Why
No matter how scared you are to open up and talk to someone about what’s going on in your life or what has happened to you, please speak up. Life is not always easy. It’s not meant to be either. There are things we go through and troubled times we face, no matter how young or old we are, what you feel is real and deserves to be heard. Don’t take the “easy” way out. As someone who did have a very rough in high school, I get it.
I was bullied. Kids tried to start physical fights with me outside on the school yard and I was one of the smallest girls in my class. Someone threw a water balloon at me on the first day of high school and it soaked my backpack and all of my school books. I didn’t hang around many people, I was a loner. I had friends, but they were scattered and had clicks of their own. I remember one kid came up to me and asked me if I was stoned, because I have small light eyes. I didn’t even know what the term stoned meant at that age. I went home and research how to make my eyes bigger. That person’s comment made me feel utterly insecure. I began not wanting to go to school at all and my parents didn’t understand why. I would get so upset because I didn’t want to be around these people. I would slam my door and cry. I begged them to please let me stay home. These kids started nasty rumors about me; left things up on the computer screens in the library about me for other students to see and spread around.
When I got to junior and senior year, I worked out a way with my school counselor to take a few classes online so I could minimize my discomfort of the social aspect of high school. I ran into him years later in line at the grocery store and thanked him for helping me out in that very difficult time. I still don’t think he knows or realizes the impact he had on my life by making such a simple exception for me. Maybe he saw through my desperation and a real need for his help, but I am forever grateful for what he did to try and help.
Not everyone’s story is the same. We each have our own path to walk, at our pace. It’s okay if you don’t feel like you fit in. If someone is bullying you, starting rumors about you, taking things a bit too far, talk to someone. There are people who will be willing to help you. Don’t be scared to do something that will help make your life easier without feeling the need to completely escape from it all, leaving your friends and family, people who love you and want to see you succeed left devastated and questioning where the heck they went wrong. Don’t let a TV show give you any ideas about taking your own life. Things will get better, they always do and they always will. Just talk to someone.
Images via We Heart It