“13 Reasons Why” is a popular Netflix series based on a 2007 young adult novel by Jay Asher. The show premiered in March 2017. As viewership grew, particularly among high school aged children, parents and educators became increasingly anxious. Critics say the show romanticizes suicide, while supporters argue the series opens the door for good conversations and helps kids realize they are not alone in their feelings.
The story line follows Hannah Baker, a high school girl who kills herself, leaving behind a series of tapes for the classmates who influenced her decision to play after she’s gone. The final episode shows her death, and the graphic scene prompted many U.S. schools to send letters home to parents/guardians. The letters discussed the “13 Reasons Why” and in some cases provided tips on how to prevent suicide.
My first reaction upon hearing about the series was that Netflix was incredibly irresponsible in creating the show. I worked hard to try to understand the show’s popularity and to see the other side. I’ve listed pros and cons below, starting with the cons as they came to me more quickly.
CONS OF “13 REASONS WHY”
- “The series glamorizes suicide by showing that killing oneself and leaving tape recordings is a way to successfully show the world a message.
- The show attempts to simplify suicide, which is a very serious and complex issue.
- “13 Reasons Why” does not make it clear that many reasons might exist to cause someone to attempt suicide. The victim may be suffering from a mental illness of which they are not aware and therefore may not seek treatment.
- The series seems to demonstrate the only solution in Hannah’s situation is suicide, and does not encourage viewers to take steps to make a change.
- The teenagers in this show deal with serious issues without speaking with a parent or another adult.
- School counselors can and should help students through difficult times; The counselor in the series unfortunately brushes Hannah off without providing the attention she deserves. A counselor who behaves this way should be removed from their job.
PROS OF “13 REASONS WHY”
1.The series presents an opportunity to discuss difficult subjects such as mental illness, bullying, sexual assault and suicide. We recommend parents watch with their teenagers and discuss afterwards.
2. The story line demonstrates how small actions can have large consequences and the importance of treating others with kindness, humility and respect.
3. It teaches kids to not underestimate the power of their words and actions and that no one knows what someone else is going through at any given time.
4. Many kids identify with the issues presented in “13 Reasons Why” and find that knowing others have similar experiences to be comforting.
Hard as I tried, I could not come up with the same number of pros as cons for “13 Reasons Why”. However, I do see why some people believe the series helps some to better understand the difficulties teenagers face today and promote open and honest conversations.
Note: If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-279-8255 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) or text 741741 to talk with a trained Crisis Counselor.