CONTENT WARNING: This post talks about sensitive material in a generalized manner. While I do not think it’s a trigger, it might be. I mention sexual assault in passing, bullying, and suicide. If you are uncomfortable with these topics, please skip this post or message me for a rundown of what I discuss here. I will try to sanitize it for you. AT THE END OF THIS POST there is a list of suicide prevention resources, both national (USA) and international. If you need help, please, don’t be afraid to seek it out. If you need to, feel free to message me. I’m busy a lot, but not too busy to help someone out.
Again, I will update my header soon!
Recently, I discovered (belatedly, I might add) that Netflix picked up the rights to 13 Reasons Why by Asher and turned it into a TV series. I was like, “Hey, that’s pretty cool!” The thing is, a lot of people are thinking maybe it’s not so cool. They’re saying that kids *shouldn’t* be watching this show. That it glamorizes and glorifies suicide.
To which I ask: Are we talking about the same thing?
So here’s the skinny. I haven’t seen the show yet (it’s now on my to watch list, however), but I have read the book. Although I really like how Asher deals with suicide and the impact each individual has on another individual, unwittingly or otherwise, I didn’t really care for the book. My issues stem with some of the ways Asher’s main character dealt with Hannah’s revelations – which include some sensitive materials that I won’t reveal here, because, spoilers, but let’s just say they’re important and difficult topics. I think that Hannah was a normal person who took a stumble and just kept going. Snowballed. Which made her very likeable. The main guy? Less so. His reactions, although they didn’t make him “bad”, made him sort of… irresponsible? Like, “I didn’t do anything wrong, so I have the right to judge all others and pass redemption/condemnation as I see fit”. And he seemed to do it all wrong.
That being said, Asher’s book still holds weight and I think that if we (society, people, kids, parents, whatever) talk about the good and the bad in this book, it’s helpful for everyone.
Yet all I seem to hear is “Don’t watch this show.” And none of it has to do with “the acting’s bad” or “there’s tons of nudity” or “so. much. violence.” (a la Game of Thrones anyone?) Instead this advice revolves around some misplaced idea that teens who are suffering from suicidal thoughts, depression, or bullying… just shouldn’t talk about it.
Seriously. It’s like everyone’s saying “Oh, if we just ignore this, then no one will have suicidal thoughts, because they, like, won’t exist!”
Are. You. Kidding?
Nope. Not kidding. So in response to this assinign concept and several comments I read regarding watching this show, I thought I’d list my own 13 Reasons Why. Here it is.
13 Reasons Why… You/Your Kids/Your Friends/Your Parents/Everyone You Know Should Watch This Show [And Read The Damn Book].
- Ignoring Suicide Doesn’t Make It Not Exist Anymore. There’s this weird idea out there that if we just pretend it doesn’t exist, then it doesn’t. That if we just close our eyes and dig our heads into the sand, then that’s that. Bam! No more suicide. No more bullying. No more meanness. Uh, try again. Ignoring it until it goes away is like saying “when everyone who is suicidal kills themselves, then there will be no more suicidal people!” I see where you’re going with this and a) you’re a horrible human being. b) it doesn’t really work like that.
- Increasing Awareness About Suicide Decreases The Chances Of Committing Suicide. Seriously, it does. It’s because suddenly the stigma is taken away and now there’s a chance to really consider it as a mental illness. Something treatable. Because people a) aren’t afraid to come out and admit they have it and b) have some hope that maybe they can get better. If no one else knows about what you’re going through, how can you expect to trust them with what you’re feeling?
- Creating Open Lines of Communication About Suicide Gives Those Suffering From Suicidal Thoughts A Chance. This goes with #2. If we are aware, that’s great, but if we’re aware and still unwilling to talk about it, then no good has been done. It is only through discussion, through understanding each other even though we are different, can we move past the things that block our paths. We’ve got to give someone a chance to talk – and to realize that they’re not alone and that it’s okay to feel the things they’re feeling. You can’t shame or guilt someone into not feeling the way they do. That’s just ignorant.
- Encouraging Teens To Understand Suicide Helps Them To Understand That Their Peers Suffer – And That They Can Impact Their Lives In A Big Way. This is two fold. First, it tells those who do have suicidal thoughts that they can get help, they can get better, and that they won’t be made to feel even worse by admitting what’s going on. Second, it tells their peers to be compassionate. To open up their hearts and embrace this other person who feels these things. It also tells people to be kind to each other, because you never know how your thoughts and words and actions impact someone else.
- Showing That Those With Suicidal Thoughts Are Not Alone Gives Them Hope. This goes with some of the above. Awareness shows that you are not alone. That’s depressing on one level, but on another, it shows that you don’t have to do this alone and that if others survive this, then you can, too.
- Depicting Someone Who Suffers From Bullying And The Results Of That Bullying Shows How Bad It Can Be – And Tells Everyone Why It Needs To Stop. There’s this sense that “oh, everyone gets bullied at some point; just suck it up, it builds character”. Which is asinine. Are you kidding me? Bullying is a sign that we aren’t doing right by our children two fold. First, we’re teaching them to bully – it’s not something you’re born with. Second, we’re telling the bullied that they are weak for admitting that bullying hurts. Showing how bad bullying can really be is something we should have been doing for a long time now.
- Watching A Show About The Devastating Results Of Bullying And Suicide Teaches Us To Be Less Narcissistic. No, really. It does. We, as humans, tend to be egotistical. It’s in our nature. Part of that is survival – protect yourself, protect your offspring, preserve the species. It’s genetic and that’s fine. But it’s dangerous, because it can have a negative impact on those around us. By showing how bad things can be for others forces us to embrace that awful thing within ourselves, processing those feelings as though we were the ones to suffer. Do you know what that is? It’s called empathy and it’s the thing that makes you not a sociopath. Seriously. So learn to understand what someone else is going through. Learn to empathize. It’ll make us all better for it.
- Treating Teens As Though They Are Incapable Of Adult Materials Not Only Tells Them That They Will Not Be Held Responsible For Their Actions, But Also That Their Thoughts And Feelings Are Not Valid. Okay, I read a comment where someone had watched some of the show and was like “I don’t think any of these kids were really bad – just kids”. Um, here’s the issue with that. Just because you’re under 18 doesn’t mean you can do adult crimes – stalking, raping, assaulting, etc. – without adult repercussions. We need to teach children (and apparently adults) that there are consequences for their actions and your age or ignorance is no excuse for doing something bad. So treat teens like they have a brain in their head, because they do. And treat them like what they’re feeling is real, because it is. It doesn’t matter that you have the “rest of your life ahead of you” if all you can think is “is THIS what the rest of my life is going to be like?” Remember, everyone has feelings and just because they aren’t the same as yours doesn’t make them not valid.
- Glorification/Glamorization Is A Term Used By Those Who Do Not Suffer. You Cannot Make Someone Suicidal By Telling Them That Suicide Is Glamorous. [Despite what Heathers tells us.] Heathers is a late ’80s movie that is a dark comedy telling us that if the popular kids commit suicide, then everyone else will, too. Um, no. Suicide is a very specific thing, a very hard thing, and your body doesn’t want it. Your heart doesn’t want it. Your mind doesn’t want it – even when it does. Seriously, the people who *want* to die, don’t really want to die. They just can’t help the way they feel. And when things pile up, they’re pushed over the edge. But you can’t encourage someone to be suicide just because that’s the “trendy thing to do”. At the very least, your body won’t allow it. But more to the point, how can suicide make you cool… if you’re not there to be cool? So, no. I don’t buy it. It may offer an explanation for those suffering already, but it can’t force someone who doesn’t already feel that way to suddenly be suicidal.
- By Showing The Difficulties Teens Face, We Can All Be Better Prepared To Deal With Them – And Stop Them Before They Happen. Parents, watch the damn show. Know that your kids might be suffering and they don’t know how to tell you, or worse, are afraid to tell you. Figure out how you can help them. Figure out why they hurt, or get them to someone who can help them figure it out. Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t save anyone, it only takes the power out of everyone’s hands.
- If Someone Who Feels Suicidal Watches This, Then Maybe They Will Feel Encouraged That There Is Someone Out There Who Cares – And Maybe That Someone Watches This Show, Too. This one is maybe iffy. A show like this can be triggery (for a lot of different reasons). I wouldn’t tell someone, “Oh, you’re depressed! You should totally watch this, it’ll make you feel better!” because probably it won’t. But there’s the potential for those feeling desperate to realize that not everything is as it seems and there’s always that one person out there who loves us, even when we don’t know it.
- We Should Not Blame Media For The Things That Are In Our Hearts. Instead, Media Is A Result Of The Things That Are Already There. If you’re not a murderer, listening to Slayer isn’t going to change that. If you’re not suicidal, watching a show about suicide won’t make you suicidal. It just doesn’t work like that. Instead, it’s important to do your research and understand things before jumping to conclusions like that. Again, awareness.
- We Are All Human And We Should Act Like It. Have compassion. Have empathy. Realize how the things you do and say impact others. A show that focuses specifically on that isn’t a bad thing, it’s a helpful, eyeopening, probably painful thing. And I support that.
Now that I’ve given my list, here are a few other things to think about.
If you suffer from suicidal thoughts, if you are triggered by things like sexual assault, bullying, or general feelings of helplessness, then maybe you shouldn’t watch the show.
It’s not because it’s going to be a horrible show and there’s going to be a sudden rash of suicides because of it. But it is because your personal health is more important. If this triggers you, why put yourself in that position? I’m not saying you have to avoid it, but don’t watch it just because it’s this huge movement of our time (which, it very well might be). Watch it if you think it’ll help you, but don’t do it because everyone’s talking about it or because you feel like you owe it to… whatever because you are somehow connected to the subject matter.
None of that is important. What’s important is your health. I hope you can watch it, but know yourself and know that this isn’t an easy subject matter. If it was, probably it wouldn’t be a very big deal. The big stuff is always hard.
Next, for those of you thinking that this subject matter “isn’t being dealt with appropriately”.
But seriously. I understand where you’re coming from. This stuff is touchy and there’s so much potential to go wrong with it. Suicide’s a big deal and the fact that people are so cavalier about it is disturbing to say the least. But I do have a few things to point out.
First, it is a difficult subject, which means a couple of things. It means that whoever’s handling it is probably going to mess it up. It also means that even when they get it “right” it’s not going to be right for everyone. This is because “right” is not the same for everyone. If it were that simple, there would be no disagreements and no discussions because we would all, always, be on the same page.
Second, I don’t think this show is “sensationalism”. I think the news is. I think the click bait articles on FB are. I think when people gossip about other people just for something to talk about and, like the game Telephone, the truth gets so distorted that people don’t even recognize where the end of the rumor came from is. I think movies with gratuitous violence, unrealistic expectations for sex, and a general disregard for how people – real, actual people – are is. But I don’t think a show, just because it’s focus is suicide, is sensationalism. I think that, yes, it gains viewers in part by being shocking – but if we understood as a people more about mental illness, bullying, sexual assault, depression, and suicide, then it *wouldn’t* be shocking. The only way to break through that wall is to press forward, even when people think it’s a bad idea. Why? Because at least we’re ‘effing talking about it.
Third, if you’ve never been there, you don’t know. Seriously. You are incapable of truly “knowing” without having endured something similar. That’s part of it. People don’t understand, because they’re stuck in this mindset of “how can someone do this?” and “don’t they understand that this is a permanent fix to a temporary problem?” And that’s okay. I don’t wish anyone to understand suicide if they have to feel the weight of it to do so. That’s a horrible thing to wish on anyone. But I do wish for you to sympathize, even if you can’t empathize. I do wish for you to move past that uncomprehending mindset into one that says, “I don’t know, can’t know, what you’re feeling, but I’m here for you” and “I love you, even though you’re imperfect, and I want to do whatever I can to help you not hurt”. Because you can do that. That’s called being human and we can *all* do that.
Finally, here are some places to get help (national & international resources as well as an invitation to contact me personally, because if I can help – even if it’s only chatting you up via message/email/FB – I totally will).
- Lifeline (Twitter)
- Suicide Prevention Resource Center
- National Institute of Mental Health (Suicide Prevention)
- American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
- To Write Love On Her Arms (TWLOHA)
- International Association for Suicide Prevention
- International Suicide Resource (Suicide.org)
- WhatsApp (Global Suicide Hotline Resources)
- List of Suicide Crisis Lines (via Wikia – take with a grain of salt)
If anyone has something to add to this list, please post in the comments!
Much love, you guys. Open up lines of communication. Give a sh*t about each other. Play nice. We’ve all gotta share this ugly little marble. It’s up to us to make it a little less horrible.