Health & Wellness

Guest Column

A Westfield High Schooler’s Thoughts on ‘13 Reasons Why’

Scene from Netfilx series “13 Reasons Why.” Credits: Netflix

Hannah Baker. A name that is sweeping the nation since “13 Reasons Why” aired on Netflix in late March this year. People have perceived the show to be strictly about suicide. Yes, that is true. It is primarily about a girl who reaches her end and kills herself, but that is not the premise of the show.

Reviews have depicted the show as glorifying suicide. To me, that is ridiculous. In what world would a show want to promote the option of suicide, specifically to a teenage and young adult audience. Executive producer Selena Gomez expressed what she wanted people to get out of it: “They have to see something that's going to shake them. They have to see something that's frightening. ... I want them to understand it…”

If this show does anything to a person, it shakes them. Personally, I knew what the show was about, but not the specifics of what Hannah had to endure throughout her time in high school. She was raped, bullied, betrayed, and yet worst of all, alone.

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Where were her friends? Her counselor? Teachers?

What “13 Reasons Why” is about to me is the way she is treated. Not the fact that Hannah committed suicide, but why she did it. In a school full of liars, cheaters and rumors, it’s hard to not get caught up in the drama that is high school. So what? How does this apply to you if you’re in your mid-thirties and high school is far in the past?

This is how: What you say to a person will stick with them forever. Hannah Baker formed many relationships with different people. People she trusted and then stabbed her in the back. This is the problem with society today. Whether it's the whole truth or a complete lie, word will get around.

What Hannah told people was said in confidence, and all of that confidence and trust got kicked to the curb when those friendships blew up. Hannah’s story is more than that; it’s about how one moment, one conversation, one word, could end a person’s life.

All that has happened to Hannah built up inside of her until she go to a point where she felt “dead” inside. A point where she thought that if she was to die not one would notice. A point where her will to live was overtaken by the words people said to her.

I hope people apply this to their own lives and realize how a single comment can have the weight to end a person's life. Being suicidal is no joke. If people knew Hannah was feeling this way, would she be treated differently? Probably yes. But knowing something as heavy as that should not be a determining factor on whether to be civil to someone or not.

In my school district, parents and administration have had to deal with the show and its repercussions. They have viewed the show as strictly dealing with suicide and depression as a whole. An email was sent out to all high school parents on April 21, just about a month after the show aired. Parents reacted, students were unaware and administration began to talk about it in classes.

“Is this really what high school is like?”

“Is this show just an exaggeration?”

“Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, or reach out for someone who needs it.”

Yes this is all helpful, but no it does not help. With a topic like this, it is difficult to openly talk about it in classes. To me, this email just brought more attention to the show than what was needed. I do not think that the school district had the correct intent sending out that email. In it, the writer suggests that parents talk to their children about the show and its content. I personally think the school over-stepped its boundaries in telling parents and students what they should do about the show.

The middle schools are a whole different story. Watching the show at ages 11-14 has a different effect.

Sending out mass snapchats saying “snap back to find out if you would be on my tape” and “screenshot and I’ll tell you your tape.” This is not some type of joke, which is the way they are treating it. In my perspective, these younger students think that suicide or the causes of suicide are something to joke around about, which should not be remotely true.

With that all being said, “13 Reasons Why” is more than a series about a girl committing suicide. It teaches lessons about how to treat someone, how to tell a good friend versus a not so good friend; but most of all it teaches the lesson of how suicide should never be an option. There is always something more that can be done, and in that case, I think that “13 Reasons Why” is a positive series.

The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of or anyone who works for is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Guest Column.

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