Before I begin let me get some things out of the way. I am NOT a counsellor. I’m not even the parent of a teenager, my kids are 9 and 6. So I don’t even know what it’s like to parent a teenager. However, I do volunteer with teens. And, maybe more importantly, I was a teenager that battled mental illness. Undiagnosed clinical depression, complete with suicidal thoughts. Maybe that qualifies me to write this, maybe not. But after watching 13 Reasons Why I believe that my insight may help someone and that’s enough for me. FYI – SPOILER ALERT. If you haven’t watched the show and don’t want to know what happens because you plan on watching it. Wait until after to read this.
I’ve heard talk that 13 Reasons Why glamorized suicide. That it portrays suicide as a viable option. After watching it and digesting everything I can understand that maybe someone watching this show would see how Hannah Baker was brought justice through her tapes. This is rarely the case with suicide. Maybe in real life that could have happened, but let’s be honest, it just wouldn’t happen that way. You know what would have brought her justice? Talking. Reaching out. I know, I know, she tried. I get that. I don’t blame the counsellor. He had just been told that she had been raped and that she didn’t want to do anything about it. I went through a situation in high school where this guy would wait for me outside my class to grab me in private places or hurl sexual innuendo or insults at me. It was awful. I felt dirty and violated. What was worse? I couldn’t get away because I had to go down that hall to get to my class. Finally, one day my teacher noticed that I came into class upset about yet another encounter and sent me to talk to the VP. I got much the same answer. If I didn’t want to face him, and I was terrified to, then I had to find my way around him. Now, my VP also said other girls had the same problem and offered a solution. We could write anonymous letters to the guy and he would give them to him. I was afraid but I did it. Shortly after, it stopped. Thank God, it stopped.
What I’m trying to get to is the point that I opened up about it. I didn’t want to but I did. I find that this series didn’t do enough to provide help in the form of the faculty of the school. Hannah Baker was visibly upset and not one teacher suggested an option to help her out, other than to move on. Move on, yes. But do so with the proper help that only someone who is trained for those situations can provide. There are rape counsellors, grief counsellors, support groups. There are SO MANY options out there. Now, there are even places online that people can go to talk to others about their feelings anonymously. Reach out. Those resources are there for a reason.
Leaving something for after your death may change some things and it may not. You may “teach someone a lesson” or you may not. Keeping quiet and then committing suicide doesn’t really teach people a lesson though. You know what will? Talking about it. Maybe right after the trauma you don’t want to think about what happened but through proper help you can begin to process it. Maybe you will never press charges, maybe you will gain the strength you need to put that person in jail. Trust me. You aren’t alone, you aren’t the only one. Like the show correctly did with Bryce- Hannah was not the only girl he raped. In the show it happened to Jessica too. But I’m sure there were many, many others. It just takes one person to stand up for those girls. Maybe it isn’t you, but someone will. I have never been raped, thank God. But when I was 12, my grandpa’s best friend touched me inappropriately and tried to shove his tongue in my mouth. I felt dirty. I felt violated. It has affected me for the rest of my life. I told my mom and do you know what her response was? Just stay from him. A brush off. Like it was my fault. I don’t blame her, that’s what she had done and other women in my family had done. That was their answer to it. Finally after months of him coming up and putting his arm around me and many attempts to hug me he asked if I hated him. I looked him right in the face and said “yes, yes I do” and walked away. Years later, like when I was 28, in counselling I was finally able to process what happened to me. By talking to someone. A professional. I was finally able to begin the healing process. That’s what counselling does for you.
One of the things that really stuck out to me was the way that medication was portrayed. Clay’s mom practically forces an old type of med he was on a few years earlier. She was so pushy that it made me just really dislike her. It was such a bad representation on something that can really help. Let me put it this way. When you have a cold, do you take medicine for it? Of course! You want to feel better. Would you tell a diabetic not to take insulin? Of course not! They need it to live. There is absolutely no shame in needing to take medication. The problem with depression is that you already feel like a failure and the fact that you can’t handle your emotions? Well, that’s just icing on the cake. It’s hard to admit you need help. But would someone with heart problems throw away their medication? No. And people shouldn’t feel that way about antidepressants either.
I know that being a teenager is hard. I remember. I know it can be isolating and it can seem like no one understands you. And your parents? They’re overbearing or over protective and ask all these stupid questions. Or maybe they don’t ask the right ones, the ones you really need to be asked. They pry too much. They can possibly understand, right?
That may be the case, but consider this. That stubborn streak, that fiery temper, that ability to shoulder so much and still be strong – where do you think that came from? Where do you think you get it from? Because let me tell you something. We may have mellowed out with age, or learned to tame our emotions, but we haven’t always been this way. You didn’t just get your looks from your parents. You didn’t just get your moms smile or your dads’ forehead. Your genetics involve your personality too.
Sure, you’re just a bit different. That makes you, you. Don’t think, for one second, that you’re alone though. Don’t ever think that. Even if your mom doesn’t understand, or you don’t want to talk to her. Even if your dad couldn’t possibly know what it’s like. I’m begging you, try. Try talking to them. You see what we are now. Not what we were then. We tell you the “good stuff” in the hopes that you’ll never experience the bad stuff. But if you truly feel you can’t talk to your parents try that fun uncle or that awesome aunt. Maybe you have a cool older cousin. Reach out! There are people out there who love you and only want to help.
I really hated how self-harm was depicted. Like it was a viable alternative to suicide. Even preferred because suicide was for “pussies”. Harm in any way, whether suicide or self-harm, isn’t okay. I have never self-harmed so I don’t know much about it and unfortunately don’t have much more to offer. I just really didn’t like how it seemed “okay”.
One of the things I think the show did right was Tony’s character. Him being there for Clay through everything. I especially like how when Clay was talking about people not knowing what was going on in Hannah’s life he quipped “You don’t know what goes on in Skye’s life”. Be kind, always. Another thing I liked was how at the end of tape 12 Hannah had changed a bit. She wanted to give it one more change. THAT is the power of getting that emotion out. Sure, it was on tape, but she had started the healing process. A doctor or counsellor could have helped her further process what had happened to her and ultimately heal from it.
I don’t think that Clay wasn’t supposed to be on Hannah’s list. I think she knew that deep down he would do what needed to be done with those tapes. She knew he wouldn’t pass them onto Bryce but instead to Mr. Porter. It was really upsetting to me that he thought he killed her because he was afraid to tell her he loved her. That’s just sad. Incredibly, incredibly sad. Maybe even selfish on her part. But that’s what it like when battling depression. When you isolate yourself, like Hannah had done, you want any kind of positive interactions and you can go so much deeper into depression when that doesn’t happen. I don’t blame Hannah, or Clay. It’s a very sad situation where the help that was needed just wasn’t there.
So at the end of it all I guess what I have to say this. Suicide doesn’t teach anyone anything. Life is hard and being in high school can suck. Those moments when you’re feeling so lonely in a crowded room – tell someone about those. Open up. I think perhaps Hannah could have talked more to her friend Kat. I mean, where did that girl go? If you feel like you just can’t be happy, make a doctors’ appointment. There is help out there. Maybe it’s not a big deal, but maybe it is. Why would you take that chance?
Please share this. Maybe it could help someone.
You know the saying, the grass is always greener on the other side? This is my attempt to find greener grass right where I am in my life.
BTW - I'm the one on the right, just in case you didn't already know that.