Mental health

13 thoughts on Thirteen Reasons Why

May 9, 2017

Last year, I read the book Thirteen reasons why by Jay Asher. This weekend, I finally finished watching the Netflix show based on the book. While the show does do justice to the book, there are certainly some differences but I guess that’s because they probably want to produce a second season. While there were lots of things the book and show did well at, there were also some things that didn’t sit well with me in both. Before you go ahead, you need to know about the trigger warning for suicide and rape.

Here are my 13 thoughts on Thirteen Reasons Why:

  1. You want to know about rape culture? This is a show that depicts it perfectly. Victim-blaming and shaming are rife. Wealthy males get away with sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape through intimidation and popularity. It’s Brock Turner all over again.
  2. Misogyny starts from a young age. Boys who think that a girl rejecting them warrants calling her names and making her life hell need to have consequences for their actions. The show depicts this inherent misogyny and entitlement extremely well.
  3. Hannah is an unreliable narrator. Sure, she suicided and left the 13 reasons why on 13 tapes but in the end, we only know her side of the story. And while I do not doubt the rape, sexual assault and harassments, you can’t help but think her perceptions of a lot of other incidents were skewed. I liked that she was an unreliable narrator while reading the book because it does make you question most of the reasons.
  4. Blaming people for suicide is unhelpful. While I didn’t have a problem with the suicide, and while I didn’t mind some of the ones who were responsible for it, it really bothered me that Hannah held her peers responsible for her death. Maybe it’s because I work with young people who stay in unhealthy relationships with partners who threaten to kill themselves if they break-up with them, but this is something that gets my goat. I understand suicide. I don’t understand blame.
  5. Mental illness is not depicted well. Surprised? Yeah, I was too. There isn’t anything depicted about Hannah’s downward spiral in terms of her mental health. Yes, her psychosocial stressors keep occurring but that happens to all of us at some point or the other. What leads some people to suicide over others is a sense of hopelessness {wasn’t clearly depicted}, a sense of worthlessness {this was shown but not very well}, a decline in their mental health and well, some kind of mental health disorder. Plus, the manner in which she planned everything before her suicide was very well calculated and thought out — most people would just write a letter. Hers took a lot of effort. Not something someone who is mentally ill and hopeless would possibly do.
  6. There was nothing wrong with showing the suicide. Okay, this might be a tad controversial. I admit I cringed when I saw that scene. And I cried when her parents found her. Because no parent, no person should have to come and find their loved one dead. I know suicide can be triggering and usually when there are suicides, the means of suicide is not reported. I don’t remember if the book explicitly told the reader how she suicided. At work, we did get an email about this and to watch out for our clients who might potentially be copycats.
  7. It was such a sad waste of her life. I have contemplated suicide when I was around Hannah’s age. When I look back now, it seems trivial why I wanted to end my life. Hannah’s was by no means trivial. There were definitely significant events that triggered the spiral. But all I could think of was ‘why’? In spite of all the shit — why? Because things do change. Life does get better. And then worse. And then better. And then worse. It’s the cycle of life and I couldn’t help but feel that being alive, she could have done so much more to stand up against the rape culture and misogyny. But of course, I am looking at it from an adult and a mental health professional’s perspective. I know teens who can’t see anything good about their future. And yet, suicide is such a final solution to a problem.

    Image source: Here

  8. Clay. Poor dear Clay. The actor playing him did such a wonderful job. My heart broke for Clay and for the guilt he will carry even though he does not need to. {Yes, I’m aware it’s not a true story!}
  9. The school counsellor is pretty shit. I’ve been a school counsellor and I’ve worked in mental health. One of the biggest things you learn is to take what the client says and validate it. Even if it is their perception and grossly incorrect. You can challenge it later. Even more importantly, if a client discloses sexual assault, domestic violence or any form of abuse, you always believe them. With sexual assault, we can’t ask too many questions due to legal issues but it still needs to be reported to community services who can make the judgement regarding whether it is true or not.
  10. Yet, the school counsellor is not to blame. Sometimes, you can do everything right — you can check for risk, you can come up with safety plans, you can inform parents and even then, someone might kill themselves. I know it happens. You can’t always stop it no matter how much you might want to.
  11. Social media is a nightmare for teenagers whose decision-making abilities are not fully developed. Oh goodness. Most of the things depicted at the school are so common today it makes me want to cry. I see so many teens who have their photos sent around without permission, who are bullied online, who have memes about them — all hurtful and abusive, of course. I don’t know the solution though.
  12. Friendships falling out is not bullying. Friendships change. They end. They peter out. But it is not bullying. You cannot expect to stay friends with the same people you might have gone to primary school with even in high school. Sure it happens but maybe not always. You grow. You change. You might want different friends. And that’s okay. It frustrated me that Hannah got upset when Alex and Jess started to hang out with other people. Having said that, when she sees them both at the movies together but without her, cut through deeply for me as I know what it’s like to be excluded.
  13. Be kind. Everyone is fighting their own battle. This was the ultimate message of the book and the show. And I cannot agree with it more. You don’t know what people are going through so please, please think twice before you say something nasty. Think twice before you choose to ignore them or isolate them. Think twice before you think calling them ‘slut’ or ‘easy’ or ‘whore’ is okay. Just think.

You may not agree with all I’ve said and that’s okay. But if you’ve seen the show or read the book, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 if you wish to speak to a counsellor

***Linking with Kylie for IBOT, Shantala for Chatty Blogs and Mackenzie for MG***

Until next time,

Cheers!!!

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10 Comments

  • Reply Eli May 10, 2017 at 5:56 AM

    Wow. That takes me back. Rough times, the teenage – I agree – you have a lot of good points here. Was painful and uplifting to read at the same time. makes me think that we can all do something for some one – at least for only one person. great post
    Eli recently posted…Thank you, HavasupaiMy Profile

  • Reply Shilpa Gupte May 10, 2017 at 4:26 PM

    Just yesterday I wrote a post on the temporary nature of life and about how there are some people brave enough to face it all and some who find it excruciatingly difficult to accept this change. Reading the 12th point of your post reminded me of it.
    An old school friend of mine committed suicide when in the 11th class. Till today, we wonder how and why she took such an extreme step and how her parents must have coped with her loss. Not everyone around is as caring about other people, but one can always look for assistance at their family. Yet, some simply lose their morale and end it all. Are we as a society to blame for their death, I often wonder.

  • Reply Obsessivemom May 10, 2017 at 9:49 PM

    I really really need to read this one. I’ve been putting it away because i thought I might find it too disturbing but it’s been popping up at me so many times I think I just should. #mg
    Obsessivemom recently posted…The room on the roofMy Profile

  • Reply Shantala May 11, 2017 at 11:47 PM

    Thank you so much for writing this post, Sanch. To be honest, I was wary of the show, because of all the hate it seemed to attract. But now it seems like something I would want to watch. And no, it’s not because I condone suicide; I don’t. You have put it very well, when you said that things do get better, before they get worse, and then they get better again – it’s the cycle of life. But I can also relate to how hopeless the world can appear to teens at times, how easy it is to be judgmental at that age. So the message of kindness is something that can’t be reinforced enough.
    Shantala recently posted…On Breaking Away from Being ‘Too Busy’ #ChattyBlogs -May LinkyMy Profile

  • Reply Parul Thakur May 12, 2017 at 1:53 AM

    I haven’t read the book or watched the show but reading your post made me head to my TBR list on Goodreads. This looks like a genre/book worth picking up. You got a very thought-provoking post out there.
    Parul Thakur recently posted…And it’s a wrap! #AtoZChallengeMy Profile

  • Reply Tegan May 12, 2017 at 12:51 PM

    These are all good points. However I disagree with number 5 and it’s what I wrote about this week. There are no cut and fast rules for someone who commits suicide or who is contemplating it. I think in this context, she planned it so much because she was hoping someone would stop her. Something which she voiced in a round about way when she approached the school counsellor.
    Tegan recently posted…Suicide has no rulesMy Profile

  • Reply Shailaja Vishwanath May 14, 2017 at 2:42 AM

    Thank you for writing this post. Despite the trigger warning, I found myself having some mild flashbacks to a suicide I witnessed last year. It was terrible and such a waste of a life. That mother’s scream still rings in my ears. I am completely in agreement with you on the social media aspect. I don’t think teenagers have the maturity to handle the wild mood swings, the hormones PLUS the dangerous waters of social media.
    Shailaja Vishwanath recently posted…Togetherness: A decade and a half laterMy Profile

  • Reply Vinitha May 14, 2017 at 10:19 AM

    My husband and I are watching this show now. Three more episodes to go. I felt that everyone has their own fault. Hannah is beautiful and smart, yet she doesn’t have friends, I didn’t understand that part. She and her mom are close and friendly, yet she didn’t open up to her mom or her mom did not try to understand if everything is okay. I worry about my 7-year-old’s school life, how he is adjusting, all that stuff. maybe because I’m different. But high school is tough for everyone. Parents and teachers and the school counselor should pay a bit more attention towards bullying and mood swings in kids. My husband is freaking out about our kids growing up and having to deal with all these soon. I think that being kind and keeping an open mind will help us parents in understanding kids and their attitude.
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  • Reply Ashleigh My Meow May 15, 2017 at 9:43 PM

    I really liked it but I don’t know if it is helpful to teens who might think their death will send a message to others. It actually sends a message to no one. It did remind me of the turbulent high school years though. You really think that’s your whole world…. And that you don’t think anything will change ever. It such a short period of your life.
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  • Reply Taking Stock #1 - Living my Imperfect Life May 16, 2017 at 10:40 PM

    […] going to need a blog planner Buying: books {such a weakness!} Watching: Netflix! Just finished Thirteen Reasons Why and The Good Wife. Onto Season Two of How to get away with murder Hoping: I sort out my thoughts […]

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