13 reasons why – everything they got wrong about suicide

13 reasons why – everything they got wrong about suicide
"Trigger Warning"
May contain explicit details of suicide that may not be advisable for everyone to read. Written with the purpose to raise awareness about suicide. 

13 Reasons Why is currently, one of the most popular series on suicide. There are many opinions on whether the show is good or bad – and it completely depends on the individual experience of watching the show.  However, when you make a show about an issue as sensitive as suicide, it should be extra heedful of the message they are putting across. In many ways, 13 Reasons Why has failed to do so. 

So, lets reflect upon the things 13 Reasons Why got wrong about suicide. 

Suicide as a revenge strategy 

Hannah Baker records 13 tapes to tell people who wronged her that it is because of them that she is ending her life.  These tapes even include messages to people who actually were nice to her and are struggling on their own as well. These tapes feel like a revenge strategy rather than a common suicide note.

She puts the entire blame on others- which is so unlikely to someone with suicidal ideation. People don’t often take their lives in order to hurt others—in fact, they misguidedly intend to do the opposite. This promotes the idea that if you want to hurt someone, taking your own life is the solution – which is so wrong and problematic. 


Glorifying and Romanticizing of suicide and self-harm

A charming, witty, and funny young girl recording tapes talking about why she committed suicide – way to glorify such a chilling topic, don’t you think? 

In a blog post, Dr. John Ackerman writes, “It is unrealistic for someone, especially a teenager in the midst of an emotional crisis, to construct an elaborate series of tapes all the while maintaining a sarcastic, witty, and glib tone towards people she blames for her decision to end her life.”

Instead of showing suicide as a difficult decision, taken by someone amidst incredible emotional turbulence and loneliness, it glorifies suicide as a reflective and glorified action. 

No discussion of mental illness or depression

For a show that focuses on bullying and suicide, there is no discussion of mental illness or depression. There are many reasons people commit suicide. Yes, getting bullied is one of them. But why won’t you dwell into the mental aspects of it rather than dramatizing bullying over and over again?

Hannah Baker did have some symptoms of depression. The show could have started a discussion on that. What she went through, her thought patterns, the cognitive distortions – there was so much they could have explored and explained. However, they failed. 


Very little cognizance on the psychology of suicidal behavior

People commit suicide for many different reasons. But one of the major reasons is the feeling of overwhelming fear and the fear of being a burden on others. Their field of view becomes so narrow that they either forget or don’t care about those who they might affect. In all honesty, it can even seem like a selfish impulse to the people in the lives of those who are suicidal. 13 Reasons Why fails to address this psychology of suicidal behavior. It focuses more on the act than the psychology behind it, which is absolutely wrong. 

Fails to give an empowering and hopeful message 

13 Reasons Why is a show based on social issues – that feeds upon fear. It does not have a hopeful or empowering message. Fear tends to shut people down and leave them feeling like there’s nothing that can be done. Inspiring hope, by showing how adults can be supportive of teens facing the kinds of experiences Hannah faced in her school – like bullying and sexual assault – is a more effective way to prevent suicide. Making a show can exude fear rather than hope and puts a light on the problem without offering a solution is problematic. 

13 Reasons Why is a flawed show. There’s a lot the makers could have done better. They have made a highly triggering and problematic show that can and is having a negative impact on society. But looking at the positive side, it also did normalize discussing suicide. When we watch these shows, we must watch it from our own cognitive lens and do our research after watching it. That way, we can have an educated perspective of these shows. Suicide is a big problem in our society that needs to be discussed. If there’s anything we can take away from the show, let it be normalizing conversations about suicide. 

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