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Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why romanticizes mental illness

Gianna Dallman - Staff Writer, Photo courtesy of Google Images

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After being released March 31, the Netflix original television show 13 Reasons Why took the internet by storm. The Netflix original series was based off of the book, released in 2007, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. The show follows a high school junior named Hannah Baker and the people and events that, according to her, lead her to take her own life. She narrates the show via a series of recorded tapes- each one designed for a person who could have made the choice to be kind to her but instead choose the opposite.  Baker delegated that the tapes would pass through the 13 people in order of events, beginning with the first person she remembered who damaged how she perceived herself in high school- then after that person was to give the tapes to the next person who should have saved a suicidal girl’s life. The show has been controversial because it touches on a variety of heavy subjects ranging from rape to bullying to suicide. In actuality, the show romanticizes teen suicide and mental illness, portraying these serious subjects as that of a sad scavenger hunt.

If one looks beyond the show’s overarching message of being kind no matter the situation, a viewer is greeted with unnerving presence of a disoriented view on mental illness. It can be inferred that Baker suffers from depression and yet the show does not even brush upon the subject. According to Science Mag, depression rates in teens have almost tripled since 1993 in the US, the number one catalyst to this mass increase has proven to be the normalization of intense subjects like the ones presented in the show. This provides factual evidence in proving 13 Reasons Why as a likely trigger for depression in teens watching the show.

Another pressing issue within the show would be the fact that getting help from adults was portrayed as something with no worth. Baker sees her counselor before she makes her ultimate decision to die and does not receive the outcome she imagines, because her conversation did not end up exactly as she had hoped she ruled it as the last thing that caused her to end her life. This depiction of reaching out does nothing more than inspire the closing off of oneself to potential help. Although there was no immediate help for Baker, there would have been a positive outcome had she persisted and realized the importance of truly utilizing another person to prevent such a drastic and unfortunate outcome.  

13 Reasons Why is not an inspiration of happiness or kindness, it is an innacurate string of horrors which does no more than plant dark thoughts into innocent minds as a result of the unnecessarily heavy subject matter. The importance of showing mental illness correctly and  even more importantly how to get help if one is going through a depression are completely overlooked in the show.

If you or a friend are in need of help call (310)-855-4673 or text ‘TEEN’ to 839863 to speak with a specially trained youth representative from Teen Line suicide prevention and depression centers.

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Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why romanticizes mental illness