“13 Reasons Why” breaks down barriers around suicide


*Warning: this review contains spoilers

  Suicide has always been a sensitive topic. However, for the first time, it is being televised on the Netflix original, “13 Reasons Why.” Although some may claim the show glorifies suicide, it actually prevents it by showing the warning signs and impact of teenage depression.

  “13 Reasons Why” tells the story of Hannah Baker, portrayed by Katherine Langford, who committed suicide and left 13 tapes explaining why. Each tape targets a specific person who led to Hannah’s decision to kill herself. The tapes are passed around the students who appear on each one.

  One of the people who appear on the tapes, Clay Jensen, portrayed by Dylan Minnette, receives the box of tapes. He had a crush on Hannah and desperately wants to know why he made the list. The show follows his journey listening to the tapes and processing the pain Hannah endured.

  Executive producer of the series, Selena Gomez, was passionate about connecting a generation of teens to the show. According to CNN, Gomez said, “It hits a very important part of me, and I think this is what kids need to see. They have to see something that’s going to shake them.”

  Michelle Leung, junior at HR, found the series shocking. She said, “It really shows different perspectives in high school and brings awareness to different issues like how little actions can affect someone greatly.”

  The show did in fact connect teens to the devastating impact of cyber bullying and rape. One character, Justin Foley, takes a picture up Hannah’s skirt as she is going down a slide. The picture is sent throughout the school, damaging Hannah’s reputation. Later, she is raped by a star athlete, Bryce Walker. Rumors around school result in no one taking her depression seriously.

  As a result, Hannah is left with no one to turn to, which many teens can relate to. Maureen Ryan, Variety TV critic, said, “I think there are a lot of young people in psychological pain, engaging in self-harm and falling into addictions and depression. I would bet this show is driving a lot of conversations about those topics. Maybe it’s causing people to open up to their friends and family about their feelings of isolation and despair.”

  The show also helps teens understand the importance of recognizing warning signs of suicide among their peers. Hannah once wrote a poem that reflected the isolation and depression she was experiencing. Classmate Ryan Shaver published the poem for the entire school to read rather than seeking psychological help for her.

  This shows teens the importance of not ignoring depression and encouraging their friends to seek help. Leung said, “It teaches you to always be aware that people may be going through things you don’t know about.”

  The Netflix show breaks down barriers around suicide and helps start important conversations about it. It also encourages teens to be careful about what they do or say, for one never knows the extent of emotional pain another may be experiencing.

Ashley Burns, Staff Reporter

13 Reasons Why Graphic (2)
Statistics about suicide. GraphicCo: Ashley Burns