By YANNISE JEAN
May 9, 2017
“There is no doubt that the issues discussed can in fact be triggering for some, but in order to help those in need, there must be less stigma within the media.”
Netflix broke records within the last few weeks, with its new hit show 13 Reasons Why, based on the novel of the same name, written by Jay Asher.
The show opens with Hannah Baker’s voice on a tape telling the unlucky listener that they are one of the reasons why she killed herself. On these thirteen tapes, she chronicles her story and the events that led up to her taking her life.
The show deals with topics such as, bullying, slut-shaming, rape etc. and this has thus caused many schools to discourage the discussion of the show on school grounds. Many critics praise how the show handles these difficult issues, while others claim that the show glorifies suicide.
The show depicts situations that happen in across America and the world. There are girls like Hannah in every school, getting bullied and shamed over things they have no control over. There is no doubt that the issues discussed can in fact be triggering for some, but in order to help those in need, there must be less stigma within the media.
While there were many who found the show difficult to watch, there many others such as Kim Santana a high school senior who lives in Brooklyn, who thought the show was done correctly.
“The show was difficult to watch, but I felt that I could relate to her,” Kim said. “A lot of the things that she felt, I had felt at one point to. I think everyone should watch this show. Anyone who has been bullied and even those who are the bullies.”
It is worth noting that the show isn’t just directed towards those who have been bullied or who have felt the same emptiness as Hannah, but towards those who have used their words to cause harm to others. What we say to other’s has a domino effect and in the end can even cause someone to take their life.
I spoke to psychologist, Dr. Janina Scarlet, otherwise known as “The Superhero Therapist”, about the show and it’s implications on society:
1. I have read many articles blaming Hannah for her own suicide as she does not explicitly state her issues and lashes out at others while she gets worse. In your experience, do you find that behavior normal and do you think that being explicit in explaining her feelings would have saved her?
In my experience, not many teens know how to communicate what they are struggling with. Hannah herself mocks the teacher who teaches the class to state, “Pardon me, but you really hurt my feelings.” This statement is not enough of a skill for a teenager to properly communicate what they are going through. However, even when Hannah tries to (passive-aggressively) use this statement to communicate with Clay about his jumping to concussions and judging her about the rumors she’s involved in, she does not get the support she needs. I think that Hannah, like many people, might not have had the skills and (oftentimes) the support she needed to be able to properly cope with what she was experiencing. Had she been able to maintain her FML club, seen a good counselor, or had she been able to process and communicate her feelings in a healthy way, it is possible she might not have died by suicide.
2. There are many people who have experienced the same situations as Hannah but did not like the show as they felt it was a trigger. Do you think this show should be targeted towards those who have experienced bullying, rape, depression etc? Will this show be too much for them?
I think that the show depicts one side of one person’s story. It might be relatable for a lot of teens and it might also be triggering for others. I do think that if someone is triggered, it might mean that they might benefit from support, counseling, or other skills to help them process their experiences. I think there should be trigger warnings that go along with the show and at the same time, I do think that the show can be very beneficial for a lot of teens to show them that they are not alone, to stress the importance of intervening when we see someone who is struggling, and the power of friendships and social support.
3. In your professional opinion do you believe that there should be more exposure in the media regarding suicide and bullying? Do you think it will help?
While I do not believe that every teenager needs the same approach, as each individual might have a different coping style and might be exposed to different experience, I do think that there can be a lot of value of bringing attention to mental health and other emotional struggles that young people struggle with, as well as to demonstrate what can be helpful (for example, the kind of social support which might be helpful) in these situations. Ultimately, I think that when we are able to reduce the stigma about mental health and increase awareness and communication about it, and increase empathy toward those who are bullied, abused, or struggling, people will have a much easier time coping and reaching out to others.
One of the great things about media, is that it allows several different voices to be heard.
The topics that graze the platform of 13 Reasons Why, are generally dismissed and discussed in hushed spaces.
But 13 Reasons Why has done something that very few shows have done: it has opened the conversation and created a dialogue in which those struggling with demons in the dark can now bring them to the light.