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  1. #1

    "13 Reasons Why": Dangerous to Vulnerable Teens?

    "13 Reasons Why" Hurts Vulnerable Teens
    By Laura Greenstein, NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
    May 5, 2017

    Most likely by now you’ve heard about the controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.” The show is about Hannah Baker, a high school student who takes her own life and then explains what she sees as the 13 “reasons” that led to her decision. Her reasons are described in a box of cassette tapes she leaves behind for the people she says contributed to her death. In these tapes, she explains her perception of how these individuals wronged her and instructs them to pass the tapes on to the next person.

    The show’s premise alone stirs up a lot of concern for people in the mental health community because this show is a suicide revenge fantasy. Through these tapes, Hannah receives all the support and love she needed in life after her death. It is a dangerous perspective for everyone, but especially young adults—the series’ target audience—most of whom don’t realize the finality of death. They may not understand that Hannah is not actually receiving this support, it just seems that way—through the magic of television. But for Hannah, it is too late.

    Television’s power shouldn’t be underestimated, especially as it pertains to suicide. This is not to say that the topic of suicide should be avoided, but it must be handled carefully. Research has extensively shown that the way media covers suicide can lead to greater suicide risk. That’s why ReportingOnSuicide.org provides a specific set of guidelines to avoid media-prompted suicides from happening. 13 Reasons Why violated these guidelines by graphically depicting Hannah taking her life.

    Additionally, as we learn the backstory of why this young adult ended her life, mental health and mental illness aren’t discussed at all. This is major failure of the show as 90% of those who die by suicide have an underlying mental illness and suicide is very often preventable if a person receives the appropriate care. But mental health resources are mentioned only in passing after Hannah’s death. There is not a dedicated scene about finding or providing resources for struggling teenagers. The guidance counselor Hannah reaches out to for help fails to introduce her to any mental health resources or even contact her parents.

    The creators of this show stand firm that they were attempting to start the conversation on the important topics of bullying, sexual assault and suicide. In fact, Selena Gomez (executive producer of 13 Reasons Why) recently commented that backlash was “going to come no matter what” because suicide is not “an easy subject to talk about,” but overall, she feels “very proud” of the show.

    While the show has started many conversations about suicide, whether those conversations are harmful or helpful is debatable. What is helpful, however, are all the resources that have become more visible in response to the show—that is perhaps the series' only true benefit. NAMI encourages anyone who may be struggling after watching to seek help. Here are a few resources to consider:

    • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALKprovides 24/7 support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources.
    • The Crisis Text Line — Text “NAMI” to 741741 to connect with a trained crisis counselor.
    • Ok2Talk — This is NAMI’s safe community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems. Anyone may share a personal story of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope.
    • Starting the Conversation: College and Your Mental Health — A guide for both parents and young adults to start important conversations about mental health before the college years.
    • NAMI Ending the Silence — An in-classroom presentation that helps middle and high schoolers understand mental illness. During the 50-minute presentation, a young adult living with mental illness and their family member tell their stories about mental health challenges.
    • Say it Out Loud — This toolkit will help adults talk to teens about mental health. The toolkit includes a film, discussion guide, presentation and fact sheets to help start the conversation.
    • The NAMI HelpLine — 800-950-6264 or info@nami.org can offer you empathy and support and provide you information about resources in your community.


    If you’re wondering why so many organizations and individuals felt the need to address the issues presented in 13 Reasons Why, it’s because suicide is the second leading cause of death for the primary demographic watching the show—people between the ages of 15 and 24. And females aged 10-14 (likely the age of Hannah Baker) actually had a tripling of their suicide rate from 1999 to 2014.

    This topic should not be taken lightly or exploited for entertainment purposes. We all need to be aware of how suicide can and should be talked about in a way that doesn’t raise anyone’s risk for increasing that already too-high statistic.

    NAMI recommends caution in deciding whether to watch the show. It has the equivalent of an R-rating. It is best watched with other family members or friends. We recommend talking points developed by the Jed Foundation for use in making the decision and focusing conversations.

    If you are thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    3,424

    Re: "13 Reasons Why": Dangerous to Vulnerable Teens?

    I started watching this,I'm just on the first episode.My very first thoughts were oh no,I wonder how many copycat suicides there's going to be just because it already seems like a show that will seem kind of glamorous to young,impressionable teens.

    I probably shouldn't even be watching it at all,especially when there's going to be a funeral this week for a friends child that committed suicide,but IDK,I feel like I'm searching for answers or something.Plus it makes me think back on my own attempt as a teenager,the reasons why,so I'm probably just setting myself up for a downward spiral,right?

    ---------- Post Merged at 02:51 PM ---------- Previous Post was at 02:46 PM ----------

    Decided I'm not going to watch it afterall....

  3. #3

    Re: "13 Reasons Why": Dangerous to Vulnerable Teens?

    Quote Originally Posted by LIT View Post
    I probably shouldn't even be watching it at all,especially when there's going to be a funeral this week for a friends child that committed suicide,but IDK,I feel like I'm searching for answers or something.Plus it makes me think back on my own attempt as a teenager,the reasons why,so I'm probably just setting myself up for a downward spiral,right?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by LIT View Post
    Decided I'm not going to watch it afterall....
    Good decision.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    1,039

    Re: "13 Reasons Why": Dangerous to Vulnerable Teens?

    I watched it and did feel as though the majority of the scenes were romanticising suicide as a way to get back at people. The dead protagonist trying to rationalise their decision and palm responsibility off on other people, for a choice that they were 100% responsible for.
    As disturbing as the scene was - "graphically depicting Hannah taking her life" - I was actually glad that they showed it because it was the one point that actually emphasised the finality of her decision and got to the point that it's not a valid way to get people to help/support/whatever. To me, it would've been irresponsible not to show that scene given the way they'd presented the rest of the show... Which really should've been a clue that the whole premise is socially irresponsible.

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