13 Reasons Why – Does it encorrage suicide for teens?

Please note – this post contains spoilers and discussion for the TV show 13 Reasons Why and discusses teen suicide and bullying. If this is any way upsetting for you, please read something more light hearted on my blog.

The latest Netflix original series, 13 Reasons Why, follows the life, and afterlife of troubled teen, Hannah Baker. It follows her story through a series of suicide note cassette tape recordings which call out each of her peers for having a part to play in her choice to commit suicide.  The series is raw, moving and also comedic at times. It highlights the issues that teens have with their lives which some parents may not be aware of, but does it also glorify suicide, drinking, drug use and bad behaviour?

The show is an 18 certificate but that is not going to stop teens from watching it, it will be mostly watched by females in the 15 to 24 age bracket – the ones which are most at risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Where as other teen shows like My So Called Life showed the highs and lows of teenage life, it showed that there was a way through the turmoil and heartache, that bullying and peer pressure, although very real, could be dealt with. This is where the show lacked the moral support which it could have provided to many.

I watched the show with an open mind and it was obvious that from around episode 7 the formatting of the show changed and the tapes with Hannah’s narration were skipped in large chunks to hurry the story along. I did feel for the main female protagonist but I honestly feel that the story could have been so much more than the damsel in distress, weak character that she came across as, when really she was none of those things. The character of Hannah was written as a strong minded teen, when she is recording the tapes and giving her views on what happened, she comes across as confident, ballsy, determined. She has passion for things in her life and this contradicts the depiction of her and her suicidal nature.

I was bullied at school, from primary school through to the very last day of high school. I was in an abusive relationship from my late teens to early 20s. I have been mentally scarred by things which have happened in my life, and I will admit there were dark times when I wanted to vanish off the face of the earth. I have been a victim of venomous attacks in adulthood as well, internet trolls, co workers and even strangers feel it is ok to express hatred towards someone they do not know.

I have experienced friends and drugs and alcohol as a teen, I faced peer pressure to join in and was shunned when I didn’t. There were friends who self harmed, with various types of tools, there were the anorexics and the like in my circles too. Everyone was somewhat damaged and when that is normal teenage life it is easy to identify with these people on the tv and for teens who are subjective to external influences and peer pressure, this escapism that was portrayed by Hannah may be attractive to some teens.

In modern day internet society you will find groups of people online who will encourage you to self harm, to be sick, to starve and even commit suicide. It is very easy for teens to go looking for help and support online but end up with a support network that will encourage the behaviour instead of suggesting help and the right outlets for pain and anguish. These places online to many can look helpful, forums filled with people who are in the same boat, when really these can be the people causing most damage.

13 reasons why was left open for a second season with the discovery about the tapes from Hannah’s parents and teachers. With her friend Alex being shot in the head and three members of the peer group with access to guns, it leaves a lingering “who did it?” Cliffhanger over everything.

Have you watched the show? I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you think that this show could be a trigger for some teens or adults who are suffering? Maybe you could help answer some of the questions I had while watching…

Why do all the males in the school have tattoos? Is this normal for 15 and 16 year olds? Especially huge art works like they had.

Where are the rest of the parents? We hardly see them and it would be good to see the reaction from all of the adults as it would add more balance and structure.

Why were they not thrown out of school for drinking? Teachers are not that blasè about underage drinking. And it’s very obvious when a student is walking around smelling of whisky!

If Hannah’s parents owned a pharmacy she had access very easily to a whole host of things to kill herself with. Why choose that method? Do you actually think she wanted to do it or was it a cry for help? Would she have been so careful as to choose the clothes and to also leave the bath running if she was really meaning it? She loved her parents and knew they would find her, why do it in such a harrowing way?

Thank you for reading. I am no way affilliated with Netflix or 13 Reasons Why, all views are my own. If you are suffering from any of the issues raised here please get in touch and I will be happy to point you in the correct direction of relevant support or just listen if you need someone to talk to.

2 thoughts on “13 Reasons Why – Does it encorrage suicide for teens?

  • I watched it with my 14 year old son not knowing what to expect.It was harrowing to watch, although I hid behind a cushion during her suicide scene.It did open up discussion about the characters, especially Clay as my son thought he really have spoken up about his feelings for Hannah.I guess he really couldn’t see how much she felt for him.There were lots of plot holes as you say and it makes want to read the book now before the second season starts.It brought a lot of discussion into the open, except for many American religious schools where it was banned. That makes me angriest the most, adults not wanting to talk about it.

    • Talking about things us key for young people to understand. I would like to think I could talk to Nathan about anything.

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