Monday, June 5, 2017

The Forgotten Reason in “13 Reasons Why”

(by Jody, Mental Health Matters)

I certainly am not one to jump on the bandwagon. I generally let it pass by watching the fickle people jumping on and off trying to chase and follow the latest trend, so it is almost to my surprise that I find myself writing about the latest craze of controversy, which happens to be the Netflix series called “13 Reasons Why?”

I am quite sure that you have either watched it or at the very least heard of it, as it has stirred up discussions from the water cooler to the media. I will admit that curiosity got the best of me and I binge watched the entire series just to see what had stirred up such fuss and dialogue.

There are hundreds of blogs and articles with varying opinions both praising and criticizing the show for its approach on the taboo topic of teen suicide and underlying subjects of rape and bullying. Being both passively and actively suicidal my entire life, and having lost people by suicide, has given me the ability to empathize with both the supporters and the critics.

To an extent, as a teenager, I was Hannah Baker as and I am sure thousands of others identify with her depth of pain in one way or another. I have had suicide attempts as a child, a teen and an adult, and the thought process with all of them was different due to what I could fully understand at each age.

As a child, it was impossible for me to comprehend the repercussions of “if you touch Grandma’s pills you will get sick and could die.” I had been to a funeral by age eight and although I had no idea of the permanence of the situation, I did know that dead meant no longer here, and as all the adults at the funeral had said, “at least she’s not suffering anymore”. If you put those two thought processes together at such a young age, you can get the basics of how I came about to my first suicide attempt.

As an adult, the rationale behind my attempt was a lot more clear and concise. I also fully understood the long term consequences of my decision and the affect it would have on certain people. It was not an irrational, spur of the moment thing that I would regret but a precise plan which would achieve the final goal of ending my suffering.

Being a teenager is a completely different ball game all together. With hormones bouncing around like a rubber ball and emotions running rampant, the thought process could vary from minute to minute. I noticed a lot of people commenting on how it was wrong of Hannah to lay the blame for her suicide completely on other people, and although I don’t agree that was the intent, I can see that view as well. I can also tell you that as a suicidal teenager, you do, in part lay the blame on other people, because that is generally what they do at that age anyway. In my eyes at the time, I blamed my molesters, my parents and a few other people that I felt should have somehow known and helped. Maybe it was not right to lay the blame with those who I felt caused my pain and suffering, but a teenage mind is far from fully developed, and often irrational, and right or wrong, that is how I saw things, as did Hannah.

I agree that this show could potentially be triggering for some people, and I am glad that more warnings have been added before each episode. I also know that curiosity often gets the best of human nature and regardless of the fact that we know it may trigger us, we still sat down and watched it. I know for me personally, sometimes it is almost a way of self-testing your strength, or the power you have or don’t have over your triggers. I knew ahead of time certain scenes would get under my skin but I pushed through, testing myself episode after episode, regardless of any trauma it may or may not leave on me. I don’t know if I will ever know if it was my curiosity or the self-destructive part of my illness that was the ultimate driving factor to me watching the show.

There is much controversy over the graphic showing of Hanna’s death and although I admit I did not expect it, it’s closer to reality than some glorified, peaceful death. There is no beauty in suicide. It is not clean and painless. We do not just drift off into sleep and quietly pass away. There is no possible way to glorify the depth of pain that one feels in order to take one’s own life, be it pre-planned or an irrational moment.

Here in Canada, the scene caused enough ruckuses that the school boards felt it necessary to send home warning letters to parents regarding the potentially triggering topics of the show, and actually included information on prevention and communication as well as hotline numbers. There is discussion about how the rape scene and cyber bullying is not properly addressed. There is conversation over the educational systems lack of support, and even questions about whether the tapes and suicide were a cry for attention.

People are enthralled in the discussion via one aspect or another, regardless of the criticism or praise, and that is the one thing that everyone seems to be forgetting. Regardless of how you feel about the show, you are now discussing and reading about topics which you may never have before. People complain that it shouldn’t take a TV series to get subjects like suicide, rape and bullying to the surface, but that is the world we live in. A musical artist dresses one way, and we have a generation of kids with pants beneath their asses. Lady Gaga says she has PTSD, and all of a sudden it is front page news. So, this show did the one thing that is perhaps the most important… it not only started the conversation, but brought it to a whole new level.

- Jody (Jody's Blog)

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  1. Glad you wrote this, Jody!
    These were some of my exact thoughts on the show. Yes, I see both sides, but regardless of which or where you, yourself land on that argumentative live you're having those conversations!

    Well done <3

    The We In Me

  2. Thanks again Erika. I hope you are doing well. Hugs my friends. xxx

  3. As I said in my own blog post on 13RW, we don't always have control over the conversation so all we can do is use it as a way to educate. Thank you Jody for your pespective

  4. Thank you for writing on this Jody. I have not watched it and don't know if I will. It is sad though, that it takes a sledgehammer to wake people up and start a conversation, even if it can be is still better than silence. Wish some would stop the blame game and try for a real healing opportunity.

  5. Watching it now, Jody (around Ep. 10). It's a well-known book and nobody had an issue then - why now? Because it's visually represented and that makes people uncomfortable.

    I find it interesting how parents are so up in arms about it (I am a parent of a teen and pre-teen) and have no issue with my teen watching it. She's seen far more graphic shows and movies on the topic already handled far less delicately.

    As a child sexual assault survivor and advocate, who dealt with the fallout (bullying), and still deal with PTSD, anxiety, and depression 40 years later, this is a real depiction of what kids do to each other. I contemplated suicide at one point (as a teen) and lost an ex-love as an adult. I fully relate to your points about blaming others (though Hannah makes it clear she made bad choices and takes responsibility for that in the tapes). Was it her fault people bullied her? No. Ganged up on others? No. (Trying not to create spoilers here so I'll stop.)

    I know many adults who don't take responsibility for their own actions and wreak havoc on others' lives. I'm not sure their brains ever fully develop either, sadly.

    Point is, these are necessary, ugly, real conversations that 13 Reasons Why brings up, and you make great points with this article. Thank you. x

  6. Wow, thank you so much lovely, that is a fantastic compliment coming from someone as accomplished as you. Thank you for always taking the time to read and RT my stuff. Much love xxx






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