Opinion: The real-life implications of ’13 Reasons Why’

Posted on Apr 25 2017 - 8:00am by Mikala Turner

The Netflix original show “13 Reasons Why,” produced in part by Selena Gomez, quickly rose in popularity after it was added to the streaming service on March 31. If I logged onto Facebook right now, I would probably see at least 20 memes about the show within five minutes.

The show follows young Clay Jensen as he explores the series of 13 tapes of Hannah Baker, Jensen’s classmate who recently committed suicide, explaining the reasons that she ended her life.

In the tapes, Baker explains the trials and tribulations that usually plague the students at fictitious Liberty High School, along with other events one never wishes to go through.

Baker deals with numerous instances of bullying, slut-shaming, invasions of privacy and stalking, not to mention that she was raped by a peer.

The show appeals to people because of how it examines the truths of teen suicide. Baker’s death scene in the series is gruesome— that is an understatement— and is considered by multiple mental health professionals to be a “trigger” scene.

Several mental health institutions including Headspace School Support and the National Association of School Pathologists have criticized the show’s critical content.

“There is a responsibility for broadcasters to know what they are showing and the impact that certain content can have on an audience—and on a young audience in particular,” head of Headspace Steven Leicester said, according to Seventeen Magazine.

Another professional from Headspace, Kristen Douglas, insisted the show contains “harmful suicide exposure” that can cause “increased risk and possible suicide contagion.”

But, the show’s creator Brian Yorkey defended the scene. He said, “We did want it to be painful to watch, because we wanted it to be very clear that there is nothing, in any way, worthwhile about suicide.”

On multiple occasions, I have had conversations about the show with my peers and friends, and they have confided in me that the show does make people re-evaluate their lives, but it’s not always in the right way or the way that the creators of the show intended.

Though the content involved is too harsh for some viewers and could trigger negative thoughts and actions, “13 Reasons Why” serves its intended purpose that it was produced for: to give insight into the lives of people contemplating suicide.

Age-appropriate viewers should either exercise caution while watching the show or avoid the series altogether.

If you’re struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use its Lifeline Crisis Chat. Both services are available 24/7.

Mikala Turner is a sophomore social work major from Bruce.