17 Reasons Why
The Very Personal Reason '13 Reasons Why' Is One of My Favorite Shows, and Why I Feel like Some Were Missing the Point
*Spoiler Alert for 13 Reasons Why
*Trigger Warning for suicidal thoughts
Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why must be one of the most controversial shows when it comes to how they handle suicide and depression. For months following its premiere, my Facebook newsfeed was packed with criticisms of the show. Some people even suggested the show being too triggering to watch for someone who has suffered from suicidal thoughts or depression.
I was curious, to say the least. As a person who has suffered on and off with major depression and anxiety, I needed to watch this show to see what all the fuss was about. I picked a day when I was in a completely cheerful mood and had just finished binge watching The Office. I had nowhere to be, so I settled in with some popcorn and my favorite tea to watch the series.
13 Reasons Why was nothing like I had expected, and everything I had hoped to see in a show. In high school, I was Hannah Baker. We may not have shared the same experiences, but I felt a strong parallel to Hannah on a personal level. From the beginning sequence, when she began to feel isolated from her friends, I felt empathetic for her. When I first became depressed, I knew it stemmed from feeling as if my friends didn’t like me anymore. I began to not be invited to the same events with my friends, and one in particular was beginning to turn everyone else against me. The bullying she felt that was sexual in nature was also something I had felt. In high school there was a rumor that had went around that I was a lesbian, at the same time another rumor had went around that I was hooking up with boys in the school bathroom. I knew I couldn’t tell my parents about these rumors, so I kept them to myself. I came from a very mentally and emotionally abusive household, so I wouldn’t have been able to turn to my parents anyways. As her problems increased and the number of people she was able to trust decreased, the more she felt herself sinking into a hole.
Hannah tried making her situation better by trying out a new haircut and trying to make new friends and feel accepted again. For a while it seemed to get better as well, until the night when she felt that nothing would get better. Even after she had decided on suicide and made the tapes, she tried to seek help from a guidance counselor. When nobody seemed to give her help, that is when Hannah decided on suicide.
The difference between Hannah and I was that I didn’t go through with my suicidal thoughts as I had planned. I had written out 17 suicidal letters, explaining why I was going to kill myself and to tell my loved ones to not blame theirselves. They still are probably laying in a box somewhere at my parent’s house. I held onto them as a reminder of what almost happened.
November 21, 2011 was going to be the date I was going to kill myself, and I had it planned out. But you know what happened instead?
The next day I got my college acceptance letter. I had a chance to move far away from my problems if I could just hold in for one more year. The next week my best friend came back from vacation, since she lived states away. Everything slowly began to change for me, and it made me glad that I hadn’t committed suicide the day I had planned to.
I watched all of 13 Reasons Why in just a few days. I cried at the ending. I felt sorry for Hannah Baker, but also kind of glad that a show with this message was out there. I felt in the following weeks as people vilified Hannah for making her peers feel bad and saying she was being selfish, they were missing the point in the message. The directors weren’t glossing over depression. They weren’t glorifying it. They were making a statement: listen to your friends, be kind to one another. You do not know what someone may be going through. This show is one of my favorite shows of all time, because it had the guts to show what other shows are still stepping around.
About the author
Just your typical millennial I guess. Eating the right stuff because I can't afford anything past my current debt. East Coast living. I enjoy hiking and being lazy all at once. Existential crisis for the win.