Graphic by Channing Smith '17
On March 31, 2017, the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” debuted to audiences worldwide. Based on the novel by Jay Asher, the show tells the story of Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who committed suicide and left behind 13 tapes dedicated to those who pushed her to take her own life. Consisting of 10,episodes, each ranging between 50 to 60 minutes long, the series has quickly become a popular topic of debate in the Staples community.
“It was extremely powerful and real,” Jill Gault ’18 said. “The producers took a lot of risks by not being afraid to show the realism of a person struggling with depression.”
The show also follows the journey of high schooler Clay Jensen in his quest to find justice for Hannah Baker and to understand her purpose for including him on the tapes..
“At first I loved it. I was obsessed,” Monique Østbye ’18 said. “I think mental health is a super important topic to discuss and make people aware of, but no where in the series does it actually talk about depression. I feel like that adds to the stigma and misconception that if you're nice to people, it'll all be ok, because sometimes it's more than that.”
According to The Variety, “13 Reasons Why” has been the most tweeted about show in Netflix history, amassing over 11 million tweets since its premier one month ago. The show was also produced by pop-star and former Disney star, Selena Gomez.
“The show never sugar coated anything. It was willing to explore many dark and disturbing themes that I would not have expected them to,” Jake Moskovitz ’17 said.
Although many Staples students commend “13 Reasons Why” for its focus on hard-hitting issues, others see how the series could be exploitive to those with mental illness.
“I feel it is important that we recognize it (the show) was encouraging suicide,” Mia Daignault ’20 said.
In fact, according to People magazine, the National Association of School Psychologists recently released a warning against students watching the TV series, stating, “We do not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series.” The warning went onto say, “Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.”
Nowhere in the series are suicide hotlines or other methods of mental health assistance discussed. However, trigger warnings are shown during each episode that warn viewers about sensitive topics that could be shown.
“I found it to be a very entertaining show, however, I would have preferred it to raise awareness about suicide through its story instead of glamorizing it,” Moskovitz said.
Similarly to Moskovitz, Østbye sees an issue in the lack of suicide awareness provided in the series.
“I think if people have struggled with any degree of depression, self harm, or any of the other topics talked about in the series they should definitely reconsider watching because the trigger warnings aren't the best,” she said.
If you or anybody that you know is struggling with mental illness and is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.