It’s no secret that 13 Reasons Why brings up strong emotions in people. It has professional psychologists, parents and schools weighing in. Hundreds of articles have been written about it and in every lunch break, without fail, you hear it from across the cafeteria. That’s a pretty big reach for one TV show.
There is no denying that it has opened up a larger platform for people to talk about mental illness. However, this puts a lot of pressure on the show — pressure that has life threatening consequences, because suicide isn’t just a ‘sensitive topic’. It’s a matter of life and death. Literally.
Factually, 13 Reasons Why hasn’t done too well when it comes to suicide prevention. According to this article, and countless personal accounts, the show has a huge possibility of making suicide a more viable option for people who are considering it. Which it why, seeing as how it has been renewed for a second season, it needs to tackle these things a little more carefully.
If you want to read more about how 13 Reasons Why could be considered more damaging than helpful, please click here.
Call it depression.
Throughout the show, there has been no mention of mental illness, just an indication. Hannah hasn’t made the tapes and committed suicide simply because she was angry. It’s deeper than that and it’s the show’s job to make sure that people know that. Awareness isn’t viable if it’s not spreading the truth.
On the same note, addressing the idea that the problem wasn’t simply bullying would be nice too.
Focus on Hannah’s story, not Clay’s.
Hannah is the important person here. It’s not supposed to be about how people feel once someone has committed suicide, although that is important as well, but this is a show that is supposed to focus on Hannah’s suicide and what lead her to it. Which issue do you think is more important? The idea that Hannah committed suicide or that Clay is walking around, able to easily walk away from suicide, wallowing in self-pity?
Listen to the professionals
When dealing with something like suicide, it would be extremely foolish to ignore what other those who actually know what they’re doing tell you to do.
Listen to the viewers
Are people saying that the show made them relapse? Gave them a panic attack? It would probably be wise to listen to them. After all, this is supposed to be a show about mental illness is it not? Unlike other shows, viewers are not criticising shoddy writing or bad acting. Instead, they’re talking about the effect the show has had on their lives. If they’ve reacted in a negative way, this only emphasises the need to listen to them.
Have a disclaimer at the beginning
Every single episode should start with a disclaimer. Not a written one, not one that’s narrated by some random dude with a deep voice, but a genuine one from the actors themselves. Even though yes, you are watching a TV show. You sat down, clicked on the link and saw the opening credits roll by – but it can be hard to remember that when you’re crying your eyes out over a sad scene or boiling with rage over something that’s happened. Having a disclaimer at the beginning would make the experience a whole lot more pleasant and safe for everyone.
By doing these things, 13 Reasons Why could better portray the story of someone with a mental illness. Instead of having an overall negative aspect, it could actually do some good.