13 Reasons Why Not

Posted On May 10, 2018

The Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, is preparing to enter its second season. The show was widely publicized and produced a maelstrom of negative publicity from mental health advocates and professionals. This response was due to how the program portrayed the topic of suicide, including its graphic depiction and seeming lack of response by the adult characters in the lead character Hannah’s life.

I watched the series to gain my own understanding of what the controversy was all about. In doing so, I was able to see why those who reacted so strongly to the themes represented in the show felt the way that they did.

First and foremost, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen such a trauma-invoking portrayal of suicide as in 13 Reasons Why. The image is still fresh in my mind. I literally recoiled when Hannah completed the act.

Secondly, the lack of insight of the adults in Hannah’s life painted a poor picture, especially with that of the school counselor. While it is true that sometimes people don’t pick up on the signs of suicide, it was obvious that Hannah was in distress when she met with her counselor.

Another primary consideration is the fact that there was no mention whatsoever of depression, or mental health for that matter. This lack of acknowledgment was a glaring error in how the show was produced. By highlighting the fact that Hannah was having difficulty managing her mental health, a more realistic picture could have been delivered.

With teen mental health being at the forefront of our national dialogue, there is an increased need for resources and tools to educate our youth about this important topic, In New York State, the recently legislated Mental Health Education Law is the first state in the U.S. to mandate this type of curriculum. I believe that this serves as a bell weather for the future of education in our country.

By providing this kind of invaluable education, such as that found in the Prepare U curriculum, students will be made more aware of how to navigate the many stressors they face every day as well as gain practical solutions to help them manage their mental health.

While Netflix is obviously moving forward in exploiting the popularity of season one of 13 Reasons Why by releasing season two, having open frank conversations with our youth about the importance of taking care of one’s mental health, including the need for communication with a trusted adult, can be a means of preserving the lives of our most vulnerable children.

Karl Shallowhorn

71 Margaret Road, Amherst, 14226

13 Reasons Why
All mental health disorders
Suicide