The popular novel “13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher has recently been adapted into a Netflix original show that has sparked a worldwide conversation and debate about the controversial themes that it centers around. This novel recognizes the reality of high school in today’s society and shows the toxic impact that bullying, abuse, and violence have on those who are exposed to it. Bullying has become exponentially worse as the rise of social media and technology has reached its peak thus far; with camera phones and media platforms, bullying has become nearly inescapable. Suicide is a very real problem and the best way to combat this deadly epidemic is by keeping an open conversation between the children who are suffering and those who can help them. According to Jason’s Foundation, “Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 5,420 attempts by young people grades 7-12.” With this in mind, we should use novels such as 13 Reasons Why as tools to communicate about the resources and steps that are available for anyone who is thinking about suicide.
“13 Reasons Why” has sparked a wave of controversy because of its portrayal of sensitive topics such as rape, abuse, drug use, and even a very graphic suicide scene in a bath tub. However, alongside the controversy that surrounds this show is widespread praise by much of the audience. Many have been celebrating the show and its raw, hard-to-watch material because of the impact that it has. “Nothing about this show is candy coated. It is real. As hard as it is to watch, people need to realize that this kind of thing happens every single day and it’s important for us to be educated about it rather than silence the hard reality of it,” said Janessa Figueroa, a UFC student who recently watched the Netflix series.
Although the target audiences were teens and young adults, this show has broken many barriers and reached audiences of older ages and, with adult supervision, younger audiences as well. Much of the older audience has decided that this show is a great tool for parents and mentors to use to start a conversation with their children about the hard topics that are usually avoided. They believe that seeing these traumatic events take place on the show will open up a dialogue about what they might be suffering from themselves. As they see Hannah’s story play out, they can see the true consequences that come along with things like drug use and even the lasting consequences of suicide on those who have lost their loved ones.
The most significant lesson that came from the premiere of this show is the importance of communicating with those around you and speaking out about mental health. It is widely argued that Hannah would not have gone through with her suicide had her guidance counselor handled her last meeting with him differently. When she revealed to him that she had been raped, he dismissed her and insinuated that it might have been her fault. After telling her that she does not have any real options and that she should probably move on, Hannah is pushed to her breaking point and makes the final decision to end her life that day. Arguably the most heartbreaking scene in the entire series is when her mother and father find Hannah’s dead body in a bathtub overflowing with bloodied water. This really shines a light on the aftermath of suicide, which many often do not think about. Although you might be suffering tremendous, most would agree that they would never want their loved one to walk in on them post suicide though, in the moment, they often do not think about this.
“13 Reasons Why” by Jay Asher is an incredibly powerful and eye-opening novel and the adapted Netflix series has amplified that with an amazing performance. Although the series can be difficult to watch, I urge everyone to watch it and educate themselves, through further research, the different ways to spot and care for someone who might be suffering and contemplating suicide. With an open dialogue and proper training on the subject of mental health and recognizing the signs of deep depression, hopefully we will be able to drastically reduce the amount of suicides in both teens and adults. It will be a tough transition period to educate yourself and others around you about these very sensitive topics, but in the end, lives do depend on our action.