*Spoiler Alert: Spoilers ahead! Turn back now if you haven’t watched the show yet!*
As a high schooler, I was required to read 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher for a sophomore English class. I loved the book. I ended up reading it in one sitting and then skimming back through to fill out the required worksheets for each chapter.
Ten years after the book was published, it was finally brought to life. Last week, the long-anticipated Netflix series began streaming. All thirteen hour-long episodes were posted and it took me a swift three days to power through all of them.
What I couldn’t applaud Netflix enough for was some of the ways they highlighted real life issues. When I read the book, I thought to myself, “this isn’t nearly as bad as they think it is.” But the way Netflix brought every single issue to life hit the nail right on the head for me. There were 7 important issues that they highlighted in the series.
How Adults Tend To Brush Off Teenage Suicidal Tendencies As “Teen Angst”
Throughout the series, in Hannah’s flashbacks, most of her behavior is shrugged off by her parents and teachers alike as simply just “being a teenager,” especially since Hannah was new to the school. Even when Hannah reached out to Mr. Porter, the high school counselor, he told Hannah that things would get better if she just didn’t think about what was bothering her. Had they considered that there was something seriously wrong and not just “teen angst,” perhaps Hannah could’ve gotten the help she needed.
How We Don’t Consider The Effect Our Words and Actions Have
Hannah made 13 cassette tapes to document the 13 reasons why she chose to end her life. On each cassette, she discussed a different event that either directly contributed to the decision to kill herself or produced a domino-like effect to trigger another event that contributed to her death. Every event was something a classmate had said or done to her, with no regard to her feelings because they were only looking out for themselves.
How Difficult It Is To Report Sexual Assault As A Woman
After Hannah is raped by Bryce in his hot tub, Hannah reaches out to Mr. Porter. She straight out tells him that she had been sexually assaulted, and the first things Mr. Porter asked was if she was drunk and if she had initially consented but changed her mind. Hannah refuses to name her assailant unless Mr. Porter could promise that he would go to jail and she’d never have to see him again, but because the justice system for sexual crimes against women is so fucked, Mr. Porter couldn’t make that promise. He eventually tells her that she’s just going to have to “let it go.” As Hannah points out earlier in the series, no matter what the circumstances, “how can you blame someone for something that happens while they’re unconscious?”
How Easy It Is To Hide A Mental Illness and How Subtle Red Flags Can Be
No one ever really questioned Hannah’s behavior. She didn’t outright tell anyone what was going on because no one ever asked her. She drastically changed her appearance, became more distant, and didn’t try to make friends. Not only did her classmates or teachers not notice any red flags, but neither did her parents. It’s easy to attribute those changes to being a teenager and growing up when it’s really something more serious.
How It Really Feels To Suffer From Depression
It’s hard for people who have never suffered from depression to understand what it’s like. This show was one of the most accurate portrayals of depression I have ever witnessed, and it brought me to tears. Like ugly-crying tears. Hearing Hannah describe her feelings exactly as I had experienced them sent chills down my spine. Depression isn’t just being sad. Not even really, really sad. It’s feeling nothing at all, and that’s something that’s incredibly well-explained by Hannah.
How Screwed Up The Mental Health Care System Is
The nation is in dire need of more mental health care professionals, and even more so, mental health awareness training and education. Mr. Porter failed Hannah as a counselor. She outright told him that she didn’t care about anything and that she wanted life to stop. That should’ve been enough to raise a red flag for Mr. Porter to actively do something to help her. But he didn’t. Like real life, it’s surprisingly hard to get help for mental illness. A lot of insurance policies don’t cover care and the bills can pile up really quick.
How Little School Systems Are Actually Doing About Bullying
In the series, Hannah’s parents are pursuing the Liberty High School District in a court case trying to prove that Hannah’s death could’ve been prevented had they done more to help their daughter. Though Hannah and seemingly no students ever reported any of the bullying happening to her, a lot of the staff members seemed quite aware that this shit was happening, yet no one did anything about it because it was mostly the popular kids and the jocks that were getting away with whatever they wanted. Hannah’s poem about suicide was published in the school newspaper, yet no adult made any effort to seek out that student to help them.
Overall, I was greatly impressed with the show and the perfect ways they expanded on Jay Asher’s book to give the show more depth and dimension. It’s a show that I think every high school student and every parent or teacher should watch, and though some of the content can be graphic and more mature, I’d even go as far as saying that students and parents should watch it together. It shows students what can happen when you bully others, and it teaches parents the importance of educating themselves on depression, anxiety, and teen suicide prevention.
Feature Image via screengrab from 13 Reasons Why.