There are numerous articles making their way throughout the internet claiming that 13 Reasons Why does nothing but glamorize suicide. These articles claim that the main character, Hannah, only sought out revenge and that the book sensationalized suicide as a thoughtful and realistic option when battling mental illness. They say that the show completely neglected to show action taken against the boys who raped Hannah, that they should have depicted other options for helping mental illness, and that showing what suicide really looks like is irresponsible. But here’s the truth—this show is one of the greatest depictions of what suicide really is.
Suicide is not an act of revenge
Unless you have personally experienced what it is like to have serious suicidal thoughts, there is no way to fully comprehend what it feels like. Nobody wishes that kind of pain upon anyone else, and for those who have not experienced it, I truly hope you never do. To provide some kind of explanation as to what suicidal thoughts feel like, imagine yourself constantly falling into a black hole. As you’re falling, all you see is the people around you loving each other, spending time together, forgetting about your existence. You see it so much that you forget about your existence, too.
Now, it might not actually be the case that people are ignoring you or that you are alone, but that does not change that feeling. Mental illness is not a cry for help, it’s a malfunction in the brain; a problem that you can work to aid, but not that you can completely control, especially without serious help. Essentially, that black hole you’re falling through is the illness, and it takes over your life.
Mental illness deserves as much attention as physical illness
For those claiming that nobody is responsible for someone else’s mental health—you’re right. Nobody is held responsible because who can ask someone to take hours out of their day, every day, to sit there and make sure that someone suffering is OK. In case it’s not clear, licensed therapy is not cheap, and many times, it isn’t even effective. Someone suffering from mental illness has to trust and connect with the person providing therapy, and if the match isn’t there, the therapy won’t work. But changing therapists and seeing numerous doctors is neither feasible nor realistic, especially when it takes 5x the normal amount of energy just to get out of bed.
Additionally, if you have ever experienced deep depression or had suicidal tendencies, you know exactly how hard it is to seek out help. Getting to a state where you want to commit suicide is not just a tragic fantasy; it’s a point where you don’t even know where or how to seek help. There can be dozens of signs posted, hotlines listed on billboards, and much more, but that doesn’t make it any easier to seek it out. For most people experiencing this, it takes weeks, months, or even years of someone showing this person that they care and helping them realize they need the help and that they have full support. But many suicidal victims don’t receive this because others claim ‘it’s not their problem to help’ and then condemn those who take their lives. And let’s be clear—Hannah Baker sought help from her counselor. She displayed all the warning signs of depression and suicidal tendencies and they all went ignored. So, you are correct, nobody is entirely responsible for someone else’s mental illness, but would you tell a loved one who just lost both their legs that you are not going to help them get out of bed in the morning?
Justice is rarely served
A major part of the 13 Reasons Why story line is that Hannah was sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped. Many people are saying, “Well, the show should have depicted the justice that naturally occurs when those things happen. Not revenge.” Just a heads up, anyone thinking sexual assault and rape are easy processes to receive justice for, is completely misinformed. Those cases can take months or even years, and during that time, the assailant, especially a juvenile, is rarely kept in jail, so he is free to go and do what he wants. In the show, the guy who continually raped women is a white male athlete in a rich and powerful family. Please, go research how many men of that demographic are accused of rape and assault, and how many are actually convicted. It’s not many.
Not showing suicide is belittling its significance
Movies and social media constantly show people graphically killing other people. They depict brutal stabbing, shootings, molestations, rapes, and torture. Yet, somehow, someone choosing to take his or her own life is offensive? Just the other day there was a live video on Facebook of a man being murdered, yet nobody says that his murder glamorizes gun use or death. Suicide is not glamorous, physically, mentally, or emotionally, for anyone who is involved. Choosing not show suicide is just another person saying, “Mental illness is your problem. Fix it yourself.” It completely undermines any attempt for understanding, empathy, or help. Yes, it is incredibly hard to watch someone take his or her own life, but it is so important to see that it is not something done easily and it is an act filled with so much pain that you can’t help but to want to help someone who may be at that stage.
13 Reasons Why broke all the rules regarding discussions about suicide, and honestly, it’s about damn time.