This is the first in a two-part series about teenage suicide.
“13 Reasons Why” is an American television series about teenage suicide and its impact on families, friends and the community. It is based on the fictional novel by Jay Asher. The series is centred on six audio tapes recorded by seventeen-year-old Hannah which detail the circumstances surrounding her suicide and the thirteen people that she felt were in some way responsible. Although it is disturbing to watch, there is something compelling about it and wanting to know what went so wrong for Hannah that it led to her suicide.
The series takes us on a journey of grief, guilt, shame, betrayal, helplessness and anger – both Hannah’s, her parents and the thirteen people she names. There are many secrets. The final episode is very confronting; we see Hannah cut herself and bleed to death alone in the bath. Her parents come home and try in vain to save their ‘little’ girl. Some aspects of this scene are gratuitous and Hannah’s distress and loneliness, and her parent’s grief could have been conveyed without showing the suicidal act. Although perhaps that would simply be avoiding the harsh reality that the series is trying to confront.
“13 Reasons Why” simplifies the complex issue of suicide, as though somehow what happened to Hannah can be explained by naming specific people and events separately when they are all inextricably linked. It perpetuates stereotypes that bullying and sexual assault are a major contributing factor. There are subtleties that are missed. For instance, the seemingly picture perfect and supportive family eventually show some cracks, with disagreements and money problems. However these largely remain side issues. Despite these things, “13 Reasons Why” has created dialogue about teenage suicide.
See: Teenage Suicide and Your Family, for further information about suicide and ways of handling these issues with your children.