A Few Reasons Why You May Want to Skip 13 Reasons Why

The month of September has many designations for the mental health community. In addition to being Recovery Month and celebrating Psychotherapy Awareness Day, the month is set aside to focus on suicide prevention. It’s never easy to lose someone, but especially by their own doing. This year has seen two high-profile suicides of beloved 90s/early 00s rockers, Chris Cornell of Soundgarden and Audioslave, and Chester Bennington of Linkin Park.

Statistics show men more often die from suicide with 76.92 percent of completed suicides being made by men, at a rate of 3.5 times more than women; and it appears they are less likely to seek help. Years ago we created this infographic to show the staggering numbers.

Teens are a particularly susceptible and impressionable demographic. With the rise in cyberbullying, combined with the typical adjustments associated with adolescence — the pressures prove overwhelming for many children. Children as young as eight years old have died by suicide just this year, often with bullying as the impetus.

In the midst of this climate, streaming giant Netflix released a new series “13 Reasons Why” based on the book of the same name. Almost immediately after its release a number of mental health care professionals and those who live with anxiety and depression, or have struggled with suicidal ideation, shared their concerns about this show.

Critiques of the show included:

  • The behavior of the cast mirrored college-aged students instead of the actions of high schoolers.
  • Their show’s handling of topics such as sexual consent, including a graphic rape scene didn’t seem sufficient.
  • The negligent behavior of almost every adult in the tale.
  • The producers choice to switch the method of suicide and depicting the scene clearly.
  • Many have stated the show ends up appearing as a suicide revenge fantasy without really dealing with the root issues and promoting the need to seek help.

Often, with pop culture there is a pressure to consume the same media as everyone else to be able to participate in discussions about the “new hot thing” or the “can’t miss” game, movie, awards program, video game, etc. of the season. It’s not just water cooler conversations one has to actively avoid if they don’t wish to participate – you also have to skip social media and for some, social functions.

While many have watched the show, learned from it and given it excellent reviews, other people have decided to opt out of watching the title; and that is perfectly OK. Everyone responds differently to stimuli. Those sensitive to these topics could have a harder time processing the heavy nature of the material. While some who have dealt with suicidal ideation have praised the show’s forthrightness, others have written extensively about why they don’t suggest consuming the content.

After the show aired a study was conducted by assistant research professor, John W. Ayers at San Diego State University. A number of news outlets including the New York Times and Mashable reported on a spike in suicide-related internet searches, in the 19 days after the show’s release. It’s difficult to say “13 Reasons Why” is the complete cause, which amid all the controversy has picked up a second season, but the connection seems close.

Producers of the program wanted it to be eye opening as well as open lines of communication to discuss suicide with caution and care. There is a 30-minute companion to the main show, “13 Reasons Why: Beyond the Reasons,” wherein cast, crew and mental health professionals discuss the show and attempt to answer questions viewers may have after watching. They also discuss why the method of suicide was changed from the book, and have discussions about consent and the rates of youth suicide. If you have watched 13 Reason Why or intend to watch it, many have suggested watching the follow up.

If you or someone you love struggles with anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, it is important to seek help. Ninety percent of suicides are preventable with treatment. At Holiner we have treatment programs for anxiety, chemical dependency, depression, eating disorders and more. Choosing to get help takes courage and is nothing to be ashamed of. We are here to help, contact us in Dallas or McKinney to schedule an appointment.

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