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13 Reasons Why: An Australian Psychologist and Suicidologist’s Perspective

13 Reasons Why is certainly an addictive show and representative of our era – graphic, thought-provoking and at times shocking. However, suicide is a difficult topic to tackle without being sensationalist or reductive, unfortunately both of which 13 Reasons Why is. From one perspective, yes, there are many lessons that one can take from this series; however, there are also many problems which risk the lives of some of the viewers. As the President-Elect of the American Association of Suicidology said recently “the genie has escaped from bottle; all we can do now is contain it”.

Discussing suicide, whether in real life or the arts, is a balancing act of risk versus gain. As someone who has worked with suicidal people and those who have lost someone to suicide for 18 years, I believe 13 Reasons Why poses more risks to those who are young, vulnerable or have experiences of trauma, than what we gain in insight. Overall, the series is contributing to suicidality and not in a prevention-minded perspective and we as a society need to protect the most vulnerable. You may disagree, which is your prerogative; however I have provided you with my rationale for my conclusion.

Here are some points from my clinical and academic experience and having spoken to people who have watched the episode and previously experienced suicidality (those who have had suicidal thoughts, those who have attempted or those who have lost someone to suicide).

It can be about who you identify with

The Performing Arts hope to get its viewer to connect, engage and identify with characters. All great actors and performances do this, which is why the impact is so lasting. In 13 Reasons Why you are forced to walk in the shoes of the characters, which it does very well, and there are a few camps which you might settle in and characters you connect more with than others.
If you walk in the shoes of Hannah’s classmates you may start to reflect upon your treatment of others, which is a good thing; that is reviewing our actions and making positive changes within ourselves. However, if you walk in the family’s shoes, the unanswered question of ‘why’, that many survivors are left with, may be exacerbated and painfully relived. Then, most problematic of all, is if you identify with Hannah, for whatever reason which is where significant risk begins: being the new kid at school, bullying or harassment, experiencing a sexual assault, experiencing normal stuffs ups (like losing the days takings). You will follow Hannah on the path to her death, which is portrayed as inevitable and a natural progression. When in fact, there were and are many opportunities to change the end result. The show failed to insert factors or model alternatives to its viewers.

Where is our brain development up to?

13 Reasons Why offers little education and insight into the psychological or sociological perspectives of suicidality. In a healthy frame of mind, you may think that this show has a lot to offer but for someone is in so much pain; their brain can misguide them and give them the wrong messages about this show.
Three of the biggest variables with suicide generally are 1) impulsivity, 2) impaired problem solving and 3) feelings of hopelessness. These three variables can be momentary or enduring characteristics of a person. The adolescent brain is naturally impulsive because the brain’s growth and structural development continues until around the age of 25. For a young person in a moment of crisis, this series has seemingly provided them with an option to permanently ‘solve’ a whole range of problems when they have lost hope, and their frontal lobe may not yet be capable of ‘pumping the breaks’ to think through the situation clearly without acting upon their thoughts or impulses.

Fundamental rules have been broken

13 Reasons Why breaks a fundamental rule in suicidology – don’t look for external causes or circumstances that could happen to anybody when you’re dealing with the topic. The important message is not to present suicide as a reasonable, if extreme, response. Young people are more at risk for attempted and subsequently dying by suicide than children or adults. In reality, ninety percent of teenagers who die by suicide have a psychiatric disorder. This series however, depicts suicide as a reasonable response to a set of challenges that anybody might experience.
13 Reasons Why can send the message to people that there is something tragically poetic about suicide. Particularly, if one is seeking affirmation about themselves. As people are often celebrated at the time of their death, this series glorifies the suicide by way of its memorialization and remembrance of Hannah. If you are unheard in life, your voice becoming amplified in death is a strong message. The finality of the action in the series can be lost on the vulnerable mind, sending the message that concerns about social status is the catalyst for her death. The reality is many suffer with psychological problems in ways that most can’t understand. As one person I have worked with stated “it’s actually like my brain is trying to kill me when I am feeling suicidal”. Also, suicide is rarely, if ever, a revenge act or a “stuff you” to those in your lives. Representing it as such with the catchphrase (that is becoming meme-worthy) ‘welcome to your tape’, places an untrue and unnecessary infliction on those left behind.

When educating young people about suicide, which understandably although misguidedly, several parents are wanting to do by exposing their teenagers to this program, it is well known that when working to prevent suicide in a school aged population we work very differently than we would with the adult population. To be specific, content for school age people should focus on enhancing resilience, dealing with interpersonal issues, grief and loss and mental health literacy. 13 Reasons Why fails to meet any of these components.
Contagion, a cluster or series of copycat suicides, is a large problem for the adolescent population. When young people are thinking about suicide, certain portrayals make contagion more likely to occur. The 13 Reasons Why series has many of the variables that are clearly identified on the ‘do not’ rules list.

Where is the responsibility?

Mindframe Guidelines for Australian Media exclusively dictates how the media should discuss suicide in an effort to keep all our community safe. These are not flippant recommendations, rather the guidelines area based on extensive research and knowledge in the area. A really good example of a show discussing suicide whilst adhering to the guidelines is Australian Story’s ‘The Girl Least Likely’. The show is based on the real life story of a 17 year old girl, also ironically named Hannah, who died of suicide in the mid 2000’s. The show almost goes as far as performing a Psychological Autopsy on the young person’s death with the family’s permission, and in comparison there are not the problems that there are with this series.

13 Reasons Why not only discusses the means which Hannah took her life, it also graphically depicts this. And yes, creators are stating it’s to shock people out of taking this action. In reality this almost never works. Even though we are all aware of several ways that one may choose to take their life, this series graphically depicts the means and leaves little room for error. Whilst I won’t go into too much detail, many people have an idea in their head about how acting upon means would transpire. Nonetheless in most cases there still remains a high margin for error, leaving opportunity for survival and intervention. The fact that there are 100 suicide attempts for every death by suicide in the teenage population demonstrates this. The graphic nature of the show leaves little room for error. Therefore the show has reduced those chances for survival.

Triggers

There are insufficient notifications for triggers, not just suicide, but sexual assault, drug use and physical violence. Obvious triggers, such as in this show can be avoided if they are plainly labelled. However, if one has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this series can bring back strong memories and cause a person to feel like they are reliving their trauma again. This can be true of many groups in our society including those who have previously attempted, rape survivors and even emergency services professionals. But, it is not even just resigned to this group. If you, as a mentally healthy adult, watched the series in its entirety you will be exposed to around 13 hours of footage, and if you’re like many people you may have a propensity to binge watch addictive Netflix shows. Being exposed to the themes can be psychologically and emotionally overwhelming for the general population who may not be prepared for this. Several adults have reported that they felt negatively impacted on because of this and had to speak with someone to debrief afterwards.

Help-seeking minimized

Current Australian contact numbers for help-seeking are not listed as is required by Australian Media Laws, therefore I have included these below. To specifically quote Mindframe: “While health promotion is not the media’s primary role, to help ensure stories about mental illness do not impact negatively on people who are vulnerable, add help-seeking information offering immediate support and information.”

13 Reasons Why doesn’t show what people can do to help prevent a death by suicide. There isn’t any one thing that should have been shown, but there are a lot of things that could have been shown to help support people with suicide risk and the series failed to model this in line with Australia’s clear media guidelines.

Just ask

If I can turn one negative comment many make about this series into a lesson, it is to ask specifically about whether someone has thoughts of suicide when you think that there is something happening for them or that they are declining in their mental or physical health. It will not encourage the person to act upon it, but rather act as a diffuser for their psychological pain and provide an opportunity for the person to be supported in any number of ways. Many can identify the missed opportunity that Hannah presented to the School Counsellor for a suicide risk assessment to take place, so please take this lesson on board yourself and ask your family and friends! RU OK? Day shouldn’t just occur once a year, it needs to occur every day as part of typical conversation.

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  1. This was an interesting read, but I feel it was one-sided. It states arguments about show casing such a tragedy as almost poetic, but I think that’s where the problem lies. If anyone watched this show and saw something poetic in Hannah’s suicide, that’s a clear sign there is something wrong. The show is nothing but a story; a heartbreaking story. The point of storytelling is to help humanity grow by pointing out things people tend to sweep under the rug. No one talks about suicide. I recently watched a documentary on children killers and one psychologist said something along the lines of, “It takes a damaged mind to act out due to a fictional story they read or saw or heard.” I believe this is true. If anyone’s take from Hannah’s story is a justification for their own suicidal or depressing thoughts, that shows where their mindset is truly at. I would think a show like this would make people reach out for help.

    I say this as someone who’s suffered suicidal thoughts most of my life. I have PTSD. I’ve attempted suicide countless times. The hardest part is reaching out– because you’re afraid of everyone’s reaction. Hannah did try reaching out to several people. Each time she bared herself, she was cast away. While some of us wouldn’t be upset about this, other people, like Hannah, couldn’t handle that much rejection and withdrew completely. I can see how this show can cause problems, but at the same time, it’s causing people to talk about suicide more openly and it’s teaching people to reach out. The people Hannah left behind were so inflicted by her actions. How could anyone take her same steps and not feel guilt about what they’re doing to the people around them? Like Hannah, I’ve been afraid to reach out for help. But, due to this show, I’m more likely to do that now. I may have to talk to six or seven people, but eventually, that feeling will either fade or I’ll have found someone willing to listen and help. One of the things taught about suicidal thoughts is to wait five minutes. Then, when that five minutes is up, wait another five minutes. Keep doing that and distracting yourself until you’ve completely forgotten about harming yourself. This is a trick I use and I definitely think reaching out for help would be similar to this trick.

    I see the points in the article, I just would have been interested in seeing the other side to this argument. As a personal fan of the show, this is how I felt about it and how I took it in. I think this show does some justice for those who did kill themselves, but had no voice left afterwards. Hannah was so traumatized in such a short amount of time, it was overload for her. There could have been a number of factors like a chemical imbalance, but due to her actions, she never found out. That’s tragic and sad. That should be what people take from this story. A true tragedy that needs to be talked about. It’s hard to find fault with a show like this, especially considering most schools still teach the story “Romeo and Juliet,” teaching teenagers that it’s ‘romantic,’ when really it’s a sad, tragedy where two kids committed suicide for no reason. That’s terrible storytelling and a bad message. Hannah’s story was beautiful and it brings a lot of questions that are worth asking.

  2. As an immigrant and asylee from the Middle East, I often grew up in environments where the topic of mental illness was minimally and sometimes almost never discussed. When it was, it was perceived as quite frivolous in comparison to other issues. However, as a millennial growing up in American society, the issue undoubtedly continues to surface, as more and more people raise awareness on it. I think this article is excellent in shedding light, by discussing “13 Reasons Why”, on how our society has increased its discourse on mental illness in or at least on the idea of suicide and suicidal ideations which may accompany mental illness.

    In the second paragraph, the author mentions how the show is highly dangerous and that one “may disagree, which is [their] prerogative, however I have provided you with my rationale for my conclusion”. I think this sentence is awkward and acts more of a sentence that belongs in the conclusion of the article, rather than following her thesis statement. That’s because the author hasn’t really provided the reader with any rationale yet…

    I do like how the author sets her credibility in the opening paragraphs by expressing how she has been working in the related field for almost two decades and has corresponding clinical and academic experience.

    The quotation: “You will follow Hannah on the path to her death, which is portrayed as inevitable and a natural progression…The show failed to insert factors or model alternatives to its viewers” is very powerful and captivating to me as a reader, and gives me a perspective I had not thought about before.

    Section under “brain development”, there is a typo/extra word in the sentence “you may think that this show has a lot to offer but for someone is in so much pain”.

    What is the author’s source/citation for the statistic, “ninety percent of teenagers who die by suicide have a psychiatric disorder”?

    “Also, suicide is rarely, if ever, a revenge act or a “stuff you” to those in your lives.” A word to the author: some may view this as a controversial statement. I personally don’t think the show is suggesting that Hannah committed suicide as an act of revenge. I think that there are multiple elements within suicide including depression and anger, where anger may be mistaken for revenge. Maybe another sentence or two to elaborate on this would make things more clear for the reader.

    Again, under the section called “Triggers”, the author makes a claim that that “several adults have reported…”. It would be useful to state where you got this statistic from in order to give your argument more credibility.

    Overall, I think that this article gives an interesting and well-written perspective on the controversies and dangers of the Netflix series. A note I would to add is the fact that this article lacks strong counterarguments. Weaving some counterarguments throughout the article and then refuting them would make this article much stronger. Such counterarguments would shed light on the potential reasons why the Netflix series has in fact some redeeming characteristics. Refuting those counterarguments would reinforce the author’s overall argument, which is that the Netflix series has done more harm than good.

  3. Finally, an article about this show I fully agree with! As an individual who has suffered from some elements shown in 13 Reasons Why, the show did nothing but upset me and make me think about those events again. It is not therapeutic in any way and I enjoyed seeing the technical aspects of being against it from a psychological expert in suicide. I thoroughly enjoyed that this article was not written by someone interviewing another, but by the expert themselves. The headline is perfect, as is the structure as it appeals to young adults that make up a large demographic of the show’s audience. I wish an American suicidologist would come forth with these same insights to American youth, since unfortunately, many younger people may be repelled by reading an article with helpful resources geared towards Australian adolescents, despite the meat and bones of the article being applicable to anyone who watched the show.

  4. The entire article is clearly against 13 Reasons Why. It mentioned several points as to why the series may be dangerous among youth because their brains are not fully developed and are vulnerable to misleading information. The series did not include any health promotions, nor did it warned the viewers that some of the context may provoke triggers to certain individuals. Although, does are reasonable arguments, I sense there is a bigger picture to this entire scheme and this article surely played its part. The series was released and it went viral, why? Maybe the author or producers were motivated by the idea of publicity and money. In despite of that, 13 Reasons Why did not provide any direct educational information for the viewer, but maybe that is its purpose. We have to critically analyze the context and the influence it may have on certain individuals and even among ourselves. The article also points out the flaws and illustrates how it the series did not aid in the awareness of suicide, but it sure did bring it up to discussion. Awareness was brought upon misleading information and articles like this clarified what suicide is and how the experience can be. Also, in the article the author quoted from viewers that the series made them feel overwhelmed and push them to consult with someone. Maybe that was part of it too. To push people to feel something they think they know, but clearly know nothing about.

  5. Let me start off with the fact that I am implicitly biased – I dislike 13 Reasons Why. I appreciate the book, it was not written particularly well but the idea was thought-provoking. But the show – oh the show, was just absolutely unacceptable. It was an exaggeration of unnecessary proportions, and it has definitely done more harm than good – instead of promotion awareness of suicide and its effects, it promotes glorifying suicide as a way to be noticed. Overall, I dislike the show, which is why i can’t help clicking this article.

    “the genies has escaped from the bottle; all we can do now is contain it.” is perhaps one of the best quotes from this article, it truly personifies what this show has done to modern teenage culture – it’s an epidemic of people talking about suicide like it’s the newest fashion accessory. And yes, your point on how it’s about who you identify with is well taken. It’s true. If you identify with the bullies, you get awareness. If you identify with the parents, you get pain and heartache. Very well-put!

    Furthermore, you are absolutely correct that the show does not take into account the scientific, psychological, and sociological truth behind the teenage mind. And thank you as well for bringing up the fact that the important message is not to present suicide as a reasonable response. The show has done everything except that! It has completely disregarded the idea that teenagers might misinterpret it and instead, glorifies the suggestive impulse of the youth to blame external causes for their misery. And to think, such irresponsible production is getting renewed for a season 2!

    Suicide is a very complex concept and yet the netflix show only tackles the very tip of the iceberg – it emphasizes that death is a great amplifier of your message instead of showing the reality – that after you kill yourself. there is nothing. you will not be there when people glorify you. you will not be there when people regret what they did and focus on your message. it’s all very frustrating to be honest. and how graphically they depicted it as well is an act that deserves no praise.

    over-all I think this is a great article that talks about the points of the show in a very objective manner. these articles are the saving grace of people and teenagers out there caught in the trap of 13 reasons why, wasting their lives away because of a show that was given every suicidal help guideline imaginable, and they ignored all of it. you also posed very valid points without being very winding or dragging. i think you did a tremendously great job on this article! 🙂

  6. I have to admit, I tried to avoid reading this article just as much as I have tried to avoid watching this show. I’m glad that I did read this article and that you addressed these problems. I remember when I first bought this book as a kid because I identified with the main character. I never finished the book because it became to upsetting for me to read. When I first saw the previews for the show, without even seeing the title, I thought to myself “oh no”. I was angry to see that they were making this book a Netflix show. I knew the publicity it would get and how controversial the comments on it would be. I still have yet to watch it, but have been caught in the middle of conversations and arguments regarding it. Based on what I’ve heard about the show I am angry to hear others’ opinions on how it glorifies suicide, how triggering and graphic it is. The show should be acknowledging mental health and how important it is. Not turn it into a “trendy” show. It is also upsetting to hear how the show has now provoked people and in turn giving them ideas like this young man who committed suicide and left tapes behind is now being compared to a show.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4584926/Peruvian-man-23-kills-leaves-tapes-behind.html

  7. This article is very interesting to me because I also share many of the same opinions. The show, although very addictive, also does things wrong to show the general public what suicide really is like and how to deal with it. In my past, there have been many people I care about deeply who have tried to take their own life. When that happened I had just barely turned 14 years old and did not know how to react. I tried my hardest to reassure them and make sure I never let them alone even if it was just by texting. The show fails to show the signs that Hannah must of had to want to take her life. The show is also a book so it could just be plot holes that the author overlooked. I feel that the show could have been way better had it shown what mental illness actually does to the human brain and how it can cause someone to make harsh decisions such as suicide. The show is fiction and does show a lot of realistic type scenarios which allows people to relate to the characters. The only thing that concerns me is that there are so many triggers in the show. Even if it’s used just to scare the audience, it definitely does bring back unwanted memories to people who have suffered through so much. The one thing we can do is to correctly inform youth about suicide.

  8. This article is such an eye opener. Though I have not watched the show but have heard so much details about it, I never once thought of the show as possibly having this much impact. However, with that being said, I will continue to stay far away from it. Even as a an individual with good mental health, I don’t think I would be able to sit through hours of it without feeling depressed, anxious and disturbed after each episode.
    This article is truly right in saying this show could act as a form of a trigger to suicidal thoughts and give vulnerable teens a justification not just for their thoughts but the act of suicide as well. Mental health is not a joke that should be taken lightly and produced in a show that is not educating teens.
    On the other hand, I wonder if there is in fact any evidence to show the negative impact of this show on teenagers with good mental health and teens with suicidal thoughts…

  9. This article was good and I agree with what this article mostly because I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to this show due to knowing people who attempted suicide. It’s presenting a topic that could be addressed more often and from experience schools didn’t have enough to any kind of suicide prevention, and I agree the show didn’t do it justice to show the importance to be able to see the signs before someone attempts suicide. Also from experience most people I knew didn’t try this to get back at someone else or hurt them. Another part of me also feels the story was meant to not mention suicide prevention. Personally the show didn’t give me a bad effect, it just brings me back to times when the people I knew were suicidal. If anyone does have similar feelings or know that they have depression your health should always come first.

  10. I cannot emphasize how much I needed this article. As someone who has watched the series and also read the book, there was always something that bothered me with the story but couldn’t really wrap my finger around it. I had read the criticisms towards the show and also the praise but I had not come across any opinion, perspective or take on the show that was backed up by experience and factuality. So, I thank you for this piece because it really helps enlighten and educate the audience.
    Some of the points the article mentioned honstly hadn’t even crossed my mind, but when taken into consideration, do make a lot of sense. Like how the graphic portrayal of Hannah taking her own life could lessen the chance of survival for suicidal people now that they have been exposed to a successful, albeit fictional, suicide. If the purpose was to shock the audience into not taking the action that Hannah did, the shock will most likely come from people who have never had any suicidal tendencies. And it will not come from the (unfortunately) large group of young people who do feel hopeless and suicidal, it will not shock, it will inspire. Of course I hope I extremely wrong about this but the article mentions it well, “the show leaves little room for error”.
    To have a show like 13 Reasons Why is to also have people in the entertainment industry who are willing to share stories with subjects that should be discussed more, which is more than great, it is necessary. But also to have a show like this is to educate people in the sense that this is one story, one portrayal of mental illness and suicide, real life is not like this. A part maybe, but not everything. And for it to achieve the goals that the creators wanted to meet is to not only make and share the series but to continue to have educated discussions with the audience and perhaps to read this article and see where they can do much better for a second season.
    (Which in my opinion shouldn’t be happening, but that’s another story.)
    Again, thanks for the great article!

  11. This show has sparked many a discourse online, with both very passionate defenders and accusers. It is good to see an article actually giving out an informed opinion on why this show could be very harmful, even if it wasn’t intended to be by the creators. I have had friends who begged me to watch this show as they loved it so much, but have also had people warn me to be extremely cautious and prepared for any triggers. While the show made a huge mistake of not emphasising how triggering some scenes could be, especially for those who have had suicide-related trauma in the past, the people whom I talked to, who both have experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviours, were extremely impressed by its portrayal of mental illness. It may not be have been very helpful, or sensitive, but it certainly was extremely emotive, which might be what made this show such a huge sensation in the first place.

    (Note on writing: Many sentences run on too long and can be cut short to make the style more precise. This would also cut down on a few grammatical errors in the article.)

  12. The Author writes as if speaking. This creates longer than normal written sentences. Read this article s if listening to the Author is actually speaking to you.
    This method of writing opens the door for minor grammatical errors. That said, the article is very informative, using everyday language.Thought provoking.
    Sometimes, we are lucky enough, that suicide barely brushes against us. If at all.
    Missing, is an equally deeper missive on the grievous trek forced upon the survivors.

  13. I haven’t watched the series myself, but I have seen tons of criticisms toward the show. At first, I thought they were from overprotective parents who didn’t want their children watching these kinds of things, but after reading this article, I can see they have a point. Though I haven’t seen any episodes of this particular show, there does seem to be a common trend in shows/movies/books/etc that do portray suicide: they rarely show failed attempts and they rarely depict other options, as the author here mentioned.

    As someone who has and still struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, I find a lot of the media’s portrayal of mental illness goes straight to the harsh ending of suicide. There is rarely any buildup to why the character was feeling this way or if they sought out different methods for coping. They rarely show the contemplation many victims of suicidal thoughts experience, but instead make it seem like a snap decision with no support or prior consideration. It becomes more of an overdone theatrical experience rather than a serious issue that affects so many of us. Of course, it’s only a show, but the arts play a strong role in how society interprets suicide and the effects of it.

    I’m not trying to bash the show at all and, again, I haven’t even seen it, but viewers should know to be responsible when going into series like these and know there is almost always a difference between watching how a director depicts suicide and how it can really affect a real person. I’m also pretty shocked to read that they failed to provide trigger warnings at the start of the show, which ironically can cause someone’s preexisting mental conditions to flair up. As a whole, I think we need to be a little more responsible when dealing with sensitive topics like this.

  14. Whoa. This is exactly the kind of article I’ve been searching for that addresses the negatives of the show. As someone who has dealt with not only depression and suicide, but also sexual assault, this article really covers all of the bases. The section about the potential triggers of the show is SO important. Same with the section about seeking help. No one should ever feel like they don’t have anyone they can go to for help in a tough situation. There are so many resources out there for people who need help with problems or just need to talk to someone for a little while.

    • The lack of triggers struck a chord with me, too! People usually tune into things like Netflix to escape real life and pass the time, and with no warnings that can cause some serious damage to an unsuspecting viewer. And I also agree with the section on seeking help: TV shows and movies often skip the build up for a character’s mental issues and jump straight into suicide, making it seem like the only option.

  15. Honestly, so glad this was written up and backed up by someone who’s clearly studied more into it. As someone who struggles with triggers and suicide quite often, and IS affected by mental illness, I knew I shouldn’t even come near this show, but not before my friends told me what is was all about.

    Suicide and depression in youth are themes that have always been present, but especially nowadays when everybody had access to everything, teenagers with vulnerabilities are in special danger since the media is usually the first source of information we have. If I was suicidal and embarrassed to come forward, I’d have to make my opinions based on what I watch and what I hear. And since what I hear, from peers or adults, is that this topic is taboo or not talked about, then I listen to what wide-spread viral shows like 13 Reasons Why have to say about it.

    And it becomes even more dangerous when these shows don’t explain the mental background of the suicide and when it portrays taking your own life as the only plausible solution. That’s never true. There are ALWAYS options and help to be sought! Psychology books! Therapists! Public hospitals! Suicide call lines! These options NEED to be advertised more often, otherwise, we fail to give them a chance to keep telling their stories, and not 13 stupid tapes.

  16. As a viewer of “13 Reasons Why,” this article pinpoints aspects that I did not realize while watching it. Given the content provided and reflecting on the show, I can now see how Hannah’s suicide is unintentionally being romanticized and how it places the blame the on those around her. I recall one of her friends stating, “We killed Hannah.” Although select peers are at fault for bullying and mentally hurting her, they did not kill her. I can empathize with Hannah. I was bullied in middle school and had suicidal thoughts; however, I talked to a friend about it and that played a role in changing my mindset.

    It appears that the author did not watch the addendum to the show, which interviews the cast on the topic of suicide and highlights the scenes where signs associated within a suicide-prone individual were missed. I support the author’s idea that alternative ways to combat suicide should have been portrayed. Including such scenes would have shown how one can be resilient after traumatizing events and would have demonstrated how to improve mental health literacy. Overall, this is a good show for parents to understand what their children can be subjected to at that age, the impact that it can potentially have, and signs to look for to be supportive.

  17. FIrst off, this article does have good content to work with and provides numerous arguments for 13 Reasons Why’s negative impact on individuals. It’s methodology with its subheaders makers the article easy to read and gives the reader a chance to look through and find key topics. This being said there are issues with the structural quality and grammatical integrity of the article.

    To begin, the first sentence remains incomplete; the line goes “13 Reasons Why is certainly an addictive show and representative of our era – graphic, thought-provoking and at times shocking…”. This needs a final word such as culture or society to make it a complete sentence. The first paragraph shoul also contain a short summary of the show. It is best to assume that not everyone has seen 13 Reasons Why through to completion (possibly for reasons stated in the article) and will need some form of contextual background. This will also make the transition from sentence 1 to sentence 2 more seemless.

    Another issue with the article is sourcing. When using statistical evidence, such as the line “In reality, ninety percent of teenagers who die by suicide have a psychiatric disorder” you must source that with another article because it is not common knowledge. Such statistics can be found anywhere, from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to the American Association for Suicidology (which is even mentioned in the article). This will give your article and more importantly your arguments more credibility. Additionally, it would be useful to cite announcements made by different associations on the topic (I know that the National Association for School Psychologists put one out). This would also help to beef up your arguments.

    Finally, the article has misplaced commas and semicolons scattered around. Removal of these would make it easier to read and nicer to look at. Along with this, there is some awkward or clumsy phrasing that could easily fixed with some rewording. I have made notes on a separate document if you want to review it.

    The article was extremely fascinating and had profound insight into a very concerning topic. The suggestions mentioned above will make the insights stand out and bring across your point more powerfully.

  18. As someone who binged watched 13 reasons why when it first came out, I never thought about the repercussions that it would have on many people. Like it said in the article, you could either follow the path of the school mates, or of Hannah herself. I followed the path of the school mates. I felt like I needed to get my act together in order to help people just like Hannah. I never even considered that other people who watch this could be thinking differently than I was as they watched. This article thoroughly explained a rough topic of discussion.

  19. I agree entirely with what has been denoted in this article. “13 Reasons Why” does appear to romanticise the idea and concept of suicidality, which is wrong, and disempowering to real-life sufferers, on so many levels. It depicts suicide to be the solution to bad experiences, and doesn’t help to promote or encourage alternative ways in which to deal with negative occurrences. I feel this article picks up on so many important points regarding the show – specifically it fails to provide any audiences with trigger warnings, which could be detrimental to those struggling with suicidality in the present tense. Furthermore, it identifies the glorification of death, upon Hannah committing suicide – all of a sudden, everyone wants to know who Hannah is, and wants to have known her, to have been her friend – represented in the taking of “selfies” in front of what appears to be a memorial on her locker.

    I do feel this article could benefit from the consideration of some more positives regarding the show, in order to avoid bias. Particularly, it’s eye-opening to watch a series like this – it can allow for understanding and empathy. It can enable awareness of mental health issues, the signs and symptoms – what to look out for in order to protect others.

  20. First off, let me start by saying that this was a great article about a very touchy subject. The author did a good job of putting to rest so many of the misconceptions that the show “13 Reasons Why” has perpetuated, and made the much needed point that shows of this kind do not do enough to include help-hotlines in their media. For me, these are a much needed, but little advertised resource that needs more exposure. Preferably before a program starts (when the trigger warnings are listed), during (possibly during a commercial break or interlude), and immediately after a program has finished, to keep it fresh in the viewers minds that help is out there.

    However, there were some things that disrupted the flow in reading the article, some things that were awkward and could have been written better to just keep the flow going.

    Starting with the second paragraph, the author states that ““As someone who has worked with suicidal people and those who have lost someone to suicide for 18 years…” This sentence disrupts the flow as the reader has to actually go back and think about what was said. The immediate thought that came to my mind, before I went back to read it again, was that the person was losing someone every year for 18 years to suicide. I believe the author was trying to state that they had been working with suicidal individuals for 18 years, instead of the first alternative.

    Secondly, any time a TV show or movie title is used in text, it should be italicized. Or if the formatting being used does not allow for that (as I found out when I pasted my review into the comment box just now), titles should be in quotations like so “13 Reasons Why”. This cues the reader that it is an entity, or name, as opposed to being part of the general text. MLA and APA formatting requires that movie/TV titles be italicized, and this is common practice in news articles. It simply allows for ease of reading.

    Third, the headings need to be more concise. For instance, the first heading “It can be about who we identify with” should be shorter, along the lines of “Who we identify with” or possibly “Identity”; while the second could be along the lines of “Current stage of Brain Development”. Generally, speaking, questions should not be in headings. Headings should be a lead in to the paragraph, not a summary.

    Fourth, citations would have greatly aided the credibility of this article, as well as clear definitions for the terms being used. For instance, if 90% of people who die by suicide have some sort of psychiatric disorder, where this information came from should be cited, in addition to the psychiatric disorders being further broken down into those who suffer from depression, vs. those who suffer from other disorders like bipolar, schizophrenia, etc, to give the reader a better idea as to just who is committing suicide. By leaving it as a general “psychiatric disorder,” it paints all those with mental health issues with a broad brush that it shouldn’t. Not all those people with psychiatric disorders are suicidal. But a layman reading this may come to this conclusion. As those who would disseminate psychological knowledge, we have a duty to make sure that stereotypes are not perpetuated.

    The following sentence is rather awkward: ‘When educating young people about suicide, which understandably although misguidedly, several parents are wanting to do by exposing their teenagers to this program…” Perhaps rewording the sentence to be something along the lines of “When we educate young people about suicide, while it might be understandable to use programs such as ’13 Reasons Why,’ it can be horribly misguided.”

    Under the heading “Triggers” it would have been helpful to have a quick definition of what is considered a trigger. While some people may know what this word is, or implicitly know what the word is, it should however be noted that the word is being used more and more for things that simply rub people the wrong way as opposed to actually triggering panic attacks or flashbacks. For instance, I was reading something a while ago that a person had been triggered and instantly felt “oh no, my heart goes out to them,” but reading further, found that they were only squicked (their reaction was more of an “ew, gross) than actually triggered. The term loses its impact when proper definitions are not included. Also, a proper definition could help someone to understand why they react a certain way to certain stimuli. I’ve seen too many articles where the word “trigger” is used, but without an accompanying definition. I would really like to see more definitions included, as this gives a clear and unequivocal view of each term that is used.

  21. I love the way the intro is phrased. It’s a very nice hook to introduce the reader to the theme and lead them into a very deep subject. You should cite your source on how “90% of teens who die by suicide have a psychiatric disorder” because I’ve actually heard that most teens who have tried to commit suicide mostly don’t have psychiatric disorder (from my therapist so I’m not sure what the source on that is). Furthermore, you mentioned how the show sends the message that there’s something tragically poetic about suicide. While I believe this is very true, you should elaborate if this is good or bad and explain why. Lastly, I love the quote, “It’s actually like my brain is trying to kill me when I am feeling suicidal.” because it’s very true and I can relate to it a lot.

  22. This article definitely encompasses all the possible repercussions this viral series can have. I personally haven’t watched it, mostly due to my closeness to the topic, but I’ve heard the remarks many of my peers have made since viewing it. Most found themselves physically ill, if not completely broken down, and those who don’t deal with depression even got overwhelmed by the negativity in just one scene. While I can certainly see where the creators were coming from, they somehow managed to miss every point they should have. Also, considering that they’re trying to make a statement on mental health, you would naturally assume they would understand the validity of trigger warnings. Personally, I accidentally stumbled upon Hannah’s death scene in the midst of a conversation with a peer, and they did not skip out on any of the details. If you have ever attempted, or even considered attempting in this fashion, there is an incredible risk for triggering. This show was overpopularized, and thus, is damaging the youth who are taking to it like flies. Of course, the hype is starting to die down but with talk about a sequel, which would ruin the purpose of the original series, there’s no doubt it’ll pop back into the public’s eye within time. We must prepare and educate those misunderstanding the reality so that maybe we can reverse all possible damages that have occurred. This show, while promising, ended up leaving too much to be desired for it to be taken seriously as a psychologically charged series. The good does not outweigh the bad, and thus, it really shouldn’t be as viral as it is.

  23. We mimic sponges as we grow–I can clearly recall taking on one or two personality traits of TV characters I admired as a child and integrating them into my personality before I was able to find myself–and with a show like 13 Reasons Why, this poses more harm than help for younger viewers.

    Your analysis of modeling characters and connecting with them is thorough, and your argument that the show should have included alternatives for seemingly hopeless situations completely sums up the issue I have with this show. Obviously the argument can be made that the point was to “illustrate characters who have no alternatives and are backed into a corner,” but with regards to suicide, there should always be an alternative; integrating that philosophy into the minds of children will save many lives in the future.

    For adults, this show is a wonderful examination of how powerful words are–which would be perfect if that’s the only thing kids would take away from this–but, like you said, it provides “little education and insight into the psychological or sociological perspectives of suicidality.” It’s more of a horror story than an educational look into the process of suicide. Some people might enjoy watching dominoes fall through their fingers, but others need that reassurance that even the worst of chains can be stopped.

    I am of a “healthy frame of mind,” as you stated, and any aspect of depression or suicide seen on the show would not have sent me spiraling into a state no one wishes to remain in. However, even a healthy mind can see the very delicately drawn line in the sand that 13 Reasons Why often liked to step on during episodes. For lack of better wording, it was “cringe-worthy” at times. 13 Reasons Why tends to glorify suicide, and that is not what the youth of today need to see. If anything, it implies that revenge is satisfactory; and a reasonable way to get back at the people who have hurt you is to make them realize what would happen if you were gone.

    Of everything you discussed, my favorite line is: “The important message is not to present suicide as a reasonable, if extreme, response.” You branched out far and touched on every single issue one may find within this show (triggers, suicide enabling, responsibility, the ‘do not’ list, and help seeking). Three things you could improve on, however, are the inclusion of your statistic’s sources (like the one regarding the number of teen suicides: where did that information come from?), more factual support, and possibly counterarguments to your claims. Not everyone is going to agree with the fact this show is too over the top, and some solid support to back up your perspective as well as an immediate counter to anything people may throw at you can strongly sway people into thought provoking commentary and a possible consideration of your views.

    Wonderfully well thought out article and a great read for all ages!

  24. I feel that this article perfectly organizes my issues with this show. My main issue is that this show implies that there is someone to blame when one takes their own life. This is not the case. People should not have to hold on to that feeling of guilt that the characters in the show did. In addition, I’ve noticed that there are two different viewpoints when discussing this show and often times it depends on whether on not one has experienced depression or some kind of mental disorder. Those that have see the flaws within this show while those that have not see it as an amazing Netflix show. This is not always the case but it’s something that should be pointed out.

  25. I’ve watched the show as well, and even I think that this show is risky to watch – chock-full of violent images, triggers, and unpleasant scenes that can make anyone cringe. This article was a very useful read, because the author clearly fleshes out various reasons for ’13 Reasons Why’ being a toxic show to watch; providing us with valid evidence on how this show has not adhered to any guidelines or restrictions -thereby putting viewers in danger by encouraging dangerous and suicidal ideas. What makes this article stand out is that brain development is discussed as well, showing us how TV shows can affect our psyche and influence the decisions we make in our daily lives. Well worth the read!

  26. As someone who has struggled with depression ever since being sexually assaulted, watching this series brought back a lot of my trauma. I can vouch for the insufficiency of trigger warnings; I wasnt prepared for all that this show would remind me of because of how strongly I related to Hannah. The show made me start to think about who I would send tapes to. I’ve never blamed anyone for my thoughts before 13 Reasons Why and I agree that this is one of the more negative messages the series sends it’s viewers. It was interesting to read this from an educated point of view. I think if the article also offered the perspective of someone who is not affected by any mental illnesses it would tie the article together.

  27. I have a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to this show, especially given that I’ve read this back in middle school. On one hand, it’s presenting a topic that should be addressed more often, especially with regards to the poor efforts of school bullying and suicide prevention. Often schools fail to take action in preventing suicide until it’s too late. However, on the other hand, a show like 13 Reasons Why is dangerous, especially for its target demographic. I agree with this article, the show is very graphic and contains several triggering scenes, and it sensationalizes the traumas and death of a teenage girl without offering any alternatives to suicide or information on mental illness. This could potentially discourage viewers who might be going through similar events like Hannah from seeking help. Also, the fact that it’s getting a 2nd season on Netflix when there is only 1 book is
    also worrying.

    My two cents are to be cautious. It’s hard to avoid the hype of a popular TV show everyone is talking about, but if you are going through depression, self-harm, and/or have trauma associated with it, you should take care of yourself first. Your mental health comes first above all else. Good article!

  28. I agree with most everything said in this article. Suicide is definitely a terrible thing, especially teen suicide, and it cannot be ignored. But, I feel like people seem to forget that the show is fiction, and it should be treated as such. I haven’t watched it, nor have I read the book, as it doesn’t interest me, so I may be misunderstanding the amount of impact it holds for people with suicidal thoughts, or those who are easily affected by media and negative messages. But, once again, it’s just fiction. Lemony Snicket’s “Series of Unfortunate Events” wasn’t analyzed for its depiction of kidnapping, attempted arranged marriage, death, and many other things. Though, I suppose I am preaching to the choir by saying all this, because it’s really the teens I should tell this to, not you. I apologize if I came off as rude or anything, because that wasn’t my intention.

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Psychologist, Author, Media Expert- Dr. Deborah Serani gives some insight

13 Reasons Why: An Australian Psychologist and Suicidologist’s Perspective