13 Reasons Why We Can Do Better.
Raising awareness about mental health and advocating for healthy, happy people mind are things so vital to the core of who I am, what I do.
I want to praise people who not only share these values with me, but are actively voicing the dangers of untreated mental illness, as well as spreading a message of hope. It's important that we extend hands of healing and options other than self-destruction or silence to those going through these things. To anyone; to everybody; to ourselves.
But when doing this, it’s got to be in an appropriate way. In a healthy way. And in my opinion, the growing “13 Reasons Why” show and its following do NOT do this.
As a survivor/overcomer/and daily warrior in the realm of mental health issues, I am so so disappointed to hear about the way this show/storyline/production is approaching such a really really real topic. Yes, there have been a lot of media voicing out the danger this show is putting thousands, if not millions, of viewers in, by presenting an in-depth depicting of a suicide plan. For someone struggling with any suicidal thoughts, well Netflix, you may have just released the tutorial that this person previously did not have access or exposure to, and now instead of only feeling understood/supported/hopeful, this person may feel triggered and even more considerate of the idea.
Assuming all pure intentions of the producers and writers, I think it’s noble for these folks to step out and at least try to say SOMETHING, to do something for this issue.
But I personally do not find the delivery of this content effective. The graphic scenes are explicit, and the concept does not depict a realistic portrayal in many ways of the leading up to, or even the aftermath of, a suicide. It suggests suicide can be a way to guilt those who contributed to the individual’s increasing suicidal consideration, and that somebody can use suicide as a way to initiate desired social change. This is not always the case, and we should instead be encouraging open dialogue on mental health, and recognizing suicidal thoughts as a very dangerous side effect of untreated mental illness.
In addition, rape is a way-too-frequent occurrence that needs to be reported and prevented - this series should use its cultural limelight and influence to not just demonstrate the frequency of rape, but to demonstrate ways it can be prevented, or otherwise appropriately reported. Instead, the producers chose to explicitly show a graphic rape scene - something that should require a strong trigger content warning - followed by a emotionally scarred witness who didn't have the resources to properly report the situation. Again, why was it so necessary to include explicit detail of the rape, something incredibly dishonoring and triggering to survivors of sexual harassment, and something in my opinion too detailed for a viewer with a predator tendency or disposition.
If the series' intention is to demonstrate what NOT to do in various situations and cultural tendencies, it's too selective in which backstories it develops. For example, rather than depict the final 13 triggers leading up to how this mentally ill student decided to go forth with suicide, why not depict the steps of self care that were avoided and shouldn't be? Why not depict the red flags leading up to the rape, so viewers can be more actively aware of these warning signs?
We as a species should be better facilitating spaces of compassion. We as a species should be better developing self-awareness of our words and actions. And when putting together a project as daring as "13 Reasons Why," it should be a collaboration between mental health professionals, counselors, suicide attempt survivors, their families and peers, and educators. I don't feel it ethical to dress up suicide in any way as a foundation for entertainment.
I have so many more thoughts, but I want to limit the content I dedicate to this delicate and heavy topic on this blog.
Now that the conversation is open in culture folks, let’s improve our dialogue and our delivery.