Let us first establish the fact that we’ve watched the series and some of us may have read the book too. One word that would aptly describe it is complex. I’m not going to talk much about what the series/book is about. I’m going to talk about what I understood from it. I’ll talk about two perspectives to it.
Before beginning, I’d like to clear one thing. I’m not a professional who can talk about mental health and I’m not someone who knows how it feels to be in a situation like Hannah’s.
Hannah’s story is significant. So is everyone else’s. Some of the reasons that Hannah mentioned were extremely horrifying. She had to go through bullying, abuse, harassment. She witnessed a brutal crime and couldn’t do anything about it.
The first perspective is that the show, unintentionally I suppose, ends up depicting that suicide will end your suffering and that people you consider responsible for it will eventually realise they’ve done wrong. It has portrayed that they’d be held accountable by law and justice may be served. This depiction is hazardous. Hannah should have approached the authorities earlier and reported bullying and assault of her friend that she witnessed and one that she went through herself too. Suicide, harassment, bullying, assault and many other social issues cannot be justified on any grounds.
What her friends did to her wasn’t right in any way. They didn’t realise how their actions were affecting her. Reasons, small and big, kept on piling up one after the other and inflicted complex emotions that she couldn’t deal with. All that was needed was one trigger that’d break her completely and more than ever. She decided to die and she figured she had reasons to justify her action. It seemed as if she was justifying her decision by holding others responsible for it. While I do believe that her friends should have been held accountable for what they did to her while she was alive, I do not believe that suicide was the way to end her suffering and make them realise their mistakes.
There’s also another perspective that we have to take into account. We all must understand that this show depicts Hannah and her friends’ story. They do not talk about suicide in general but portray a specific, unfortunate case. Everyone is different. So is their experience. We cannot measure their pain and experience to say they weren’t hurting much. In Hannah’s case, she had gone through a lot and she needed help. She was in a turmoil, she was drowning and she needed someone to help her come out of it. Every instance of pain was pushing her more towards the edge. All of this again doesn’t justify suicide, but only provides an angle to understand Hannah.
She didn’t think of her parents when she decided to die, she didn’t think of a future with hope, of all that she could have achieved in life. All she wanted was an end. But the question is: when you’re on an edge, do you really consider logic? Do you really think of what is right and what isn’t? Can it all be generalised and applied to everyone? Did she suffer from some mental health issue? Did she think she was suffering from some issue? More importantly, did she want to live? Because if she didn’t want to live, she could not have been stopped without professional mental health expert’s intervention. If only she could have tried to seek help in the beginning from a psychiatrist, talking her heart out to him/her about her life and all that she went through instead of going to the school counsellor at the very end, the story may have turned out differently. All those alternatives can only be imagined.
People around her were either mute spectator or couldn’t figure out she needed help. If 13 reasons why she thought she should take her life were her friends’ actions or inaction, the 14th and the main reason was Hannah herself because she had the power to take the decision of her life.
The actors and the show have done a brilliant job in portraying raw emotions and tried to make it look as real as possible. What still doesn’t change is that we never know how it may affect some people, especially those suffering. It may turn out to prove dangerous in case of some people while in the case of others, it may push them to seek help.
13 Reasons Why did one job right. It got everyone to discuss this issue, even if it meant talking about what was the right or wrong portrayal in the show.