13 Reasons Why is an important series that candidly discusses bullying, teen suicide, sexual assault, and illuminates what it's like to be a teenager in this technology-centric generation. It has themes that could be triggering to survivors of suicide and sexual assault. Please be careful if you are considering watching this series. I think it was well done, captivating and disturbing, but extremely important. It's a conversation piece, and it got people talking about subjects that society wants to hide from. If we don't talk about suicide with our children, who will?
I've heard many people speak about how the show is too triggering for them to watch because of being a survivor of suicide or sexual assault. I respect anyone's choice to not watch the show, however, I found it to be an important series to view. I would caution people to not discourage others from watching 13 Reasons Why if they have not seen the series themselves. It's unethical to speak about a show from a place of ignorance.
I watched all 13 episodes of this controversial series and afterward I came up with 13 reasons why it's important to watch this show.
1. Parents -protect our children and teens
As the mother of two young children, I am committed to protecting my kids from harm. I didn't grow up with the Internet or social media. I understand that my kids will face the dangers associated with social media and being online as teenagers. In 13 Reasons Why, the main character, Hannah, is relentlessly bullied and pictures of her body are shared through text messages. This is not something that I experienced as a teenager, but it could be something that my daughter experiences, whether it's her or her friends that are the target. My child is not a teen yet, she's only six, but as I watched Hannah experience humiliation and abuse via technology, I kept thinking about my child and what I could do to protect her.
2. Learn about depression and suicide
I have experienced depression and suicidal ideation firsthand, but I recognize that many people who are potential viewers of this series may not have had suicidal thoughts. Not everyone knows what it's like to feel like they don't want to exist anymore. Hannah ultimately takes her own life, but there are a series of events that lead up to the moment where she is dead in a bathtub. The series shows the dangers of teen suicide and how adults are often unaware of the warning signs that teens display before they take their own lives. Hannah slowly loses her friends, begins to isolate from others, her grades slip and her appearance changes drastically. She tries to reach out for help multiple times but her cries go unnoticed.
3. Understand bullying in this generation
Bullying for millennial teenagers is different than bullying when I was growing up. It's much more insidious, as evidenced by this series. Hannah is bullied in multiple different ways, from salacious pictures of her showing up online and through group texts to verbal gossip about her conquests spreading around the school. The bullies become creative at ruining this innocent girl's life. When I was a child and teenager, bullies were out in the open about torturing us. The covert nature of bullying, as evidenced in 13 reasons is a relatively new thing. It's important for teachers, parents, and administrators to see different manifestations of bullying and know how to protect the victims like Hannah Baker.
4. Protect survivors of rape and sexual assault
There are two survivors of sexual assault in 13 Reasons Why. I won't reveal who they are, in case you choose to watch the series. The series shows how survivors are often encouraged to "forget" about their trauma or told that "it didn't actually happen the way they thought it did." It's important for us to see how survivors are treated in our society, and the series does an excellent job at showing us what rape culture looks like, particularly for adolescents.
5. It's triggering and angering. Why? Ask yourself
13 Reasons Why is absolutely triggering to watch, but that's one of the points of the show. It is meant to show us how taboo the topic of suicide is. For anyone curious about the show, I recommend watching it until you can no longer watch it anymore. I do not recommend watching this show if you are in a depressed or suicidal state. That isn't safe or advisable. However, if you are in a stable mental and emotional place, it is an excellent show to watch and analyze. If you are triggered by this show while watching it. Take out a notebook and write down what triggers you. That's important to know for yourself.
6. If you have been depressed
Anyone who has been depressed or suicidal can relate to this show. The depiction of depression is accurate on 13 Reasons Why. Hannah Baker isolates, she lacks affect, she ultimately loses her friends because of how severe she was bullied and slut-shamed. Hannah's character is depressed, and if you have ever been depressed, you will likely relate to Hannah and many other characters in the series.
7. If you were a misunderstood teen
I related to Clay's character out of all the characters on 13 Reasons Why. Clay was socially awkward, intelligent and wanted desperately to make a difference. He didn't know how to help his friend Hannah, who was clearly depressed and suffering. As a result, he consistently found himself walking away from situations where he felt helpless. This was me in high school, and I believe a lot of people can relate to Clay, who represents many misunderstood teens.
8. If you ARE a misunderstood teen
I believe that teenagers can handle watching this show. It is full of graphic imagery and adult themes, however, the characters are teens themselves. It's important for teens to feel heard and understood. If you are a misunderstood teenager, maybe watching 13 Reasons Why will elucidate why that might be.
9. If you have a depressed friend
One of the points that 13 Reasons Why demonstrates over and over again is how Hannah Baker is depressed and nobody knows how to help her. The series is a cautionary tale: if you don't help your depressed friend, they could die. It's important to learn the signs of depression and what you can do to help a person who is suffering like Hannah did.
10. If you like a mysterious dark series
I have a morbid sensibility and this series is quite dark. It is well-acted, full of dark humor and certainly has dark themes. I tend to enjoy series that make one think deeply about serious topics; 13 Reasons Why fits the bill.
11. If you are a popular kid
I specified earlier that I believe it's acceptable for older teens to watch this series if they are in a healthy mental and emotional state. That being said, the "popular" teens in this series are rife with problems. It's important for popular kids to understand the social dynamic that they are a part of. Maybe by watching this series, they can understand the power they have in the school dynamic and perhaps stop and help someone who is struggling with mental health issues.
12. If you are a teacher
A common theme in the series 13 Reasons Why is how the teachers and school administration failed Hannah Baker. She reached out to teachers and the guidance counselor for help with suicidal thoughts and other violent incidents that she experienced. I won't go into details about the events in case you intend to watch the show, but ultimately, these professionals failed Hannah. They advised her poorly and neglected to hear the sirens that cried out that this young woman needed help. It's important for teachers to watch this series so that they know what NOT to do when a teen comes to them stating they don't want to exist anymore.
13. If you have personally been bullied or your child is being bullied.
I was a victim of bullying. As I watched 13 Reasons Why, I was triggered and thought about all the incidents that happened where I was made fun of from as early as age 11. I related to Hannah's character, and I believe many of us can relate to her. As parents, we need to learn how to protect our children from being tortured at school. The parents in this series don't know how to do that effectively and honestly, it isn't their fault. The show highlights the inherent problems with bullying - it's hidden and hard to detect. We need to work on this in our schools. We need to unite instead of pushing the bullying issue underneath the rug, which is what I've personally witnessed in New York City public schools. 13 Reasons Why shows how the school administration fails Hannah over and over again. She is tortured by her classmates and after she kills herself the school blames her for not telling anyone. This isn't true; Hannah tried to tell the school she was being bullied, but no one listened to her.
13 Reasons Why is an excellent series that makes you think about teen suicide and bullying. It's important for us to watch and learn from. If you can handle the graphic nature of this show, I highly recommend it. If we don't confront the topic of suicide, we cannot stop this epidemic. This series is meant to help us look at suicide in an up close and personal way.