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When it was released on Netflix in spring of 2017,

13 Reasons Why, a show that follows a suicidal teenager and the fallout from her decision

to take her own life, quickly became one of the most talked-aboutand controversialshows

of the year.

While some have argued that the show, which many critics have found compelling and well-acted,

provides a much-needed forum to depict and discuss issues teenagers face, like bullying

and sexual assault, the list of potential negatives is far longer.

With Season 2 coming out in about two weeks, below are 10 reasons why 13 Reasons Why is

bad for society.

Note: This post contains show spoilers, difficult content, and references to suicide.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention

Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.


The shows structure suggests that suicide isnt final

In 13 Reasons Why, the main character, Hannah, plays a major role in every episode, even

though she is dead.

As Hannah notes in one of her ubiquitous voiceovers, “Im going to tell you the story of my


More specifically, why my life ended.”

Throughout the series, Hannah is ever-present, both through her voice on the tapes and through

her presence in flashbacks.

Even though Hannah is dead, shes still playing a major role in the story, with her

voice literally driving the action that takes place in the series13 episodes.

One suicide attempt survivor and mental health advocate explains the problem with this approach,

saying, “Having [Hannah] appear over and over makes the impact of the fact that she

is dead get lost.

When you die by suicide there is no coming back.

You dont get to hear the apologies and the things people wish they said when you

were alive.

Youre gone.”

Viewers of 13 Reasons Why may not grasp the finality of suicide, because the arc of the

plotline suggests that Hannah gets to continue to tell, and even participate in, her own

story after her death.

According to the shows writer, Brian Yorkey, Hannah will even appear in the second season

of the show, allowing her to live on in the minds of the shows viewers, despite the

fact that her life actually ended the moment she killed herself.


The adults on the show are depicted as oblivious and/or unhelpful

The adults on 13 Reasons Why are generally unaware of the challenges facing the teen

characters on the show, and when they do have important opportunities to help, they dont.

While Hannahs parents are distracted over their own financial situation, we dont

get any indication that they wouldnt have supported her if she shared her problems with


However, this is a potential avenue for help that the show doesnt even treat as a possibility.

When Hannah finally does try to reach out for help, both to a teacher and the school

counselor, she doesnt get any.

Mrs. Bradley, the Peer Communications teacher, does list some resources for dealing with

suicidal thoughts after receiving an anonymous note (from Hannah), but Hannahs voiceover

quickly interrupts (meaning that neither Hannah nor the audience get the message).

Mrs. Bradley apparently feels that a one-time mention of avenues for help is sufficient

and doesnt take any follow-up action to try to reach out to her suicidal student.

Worse still, when Hannah visits her school guidance counselor, Mr. Porter, he fails to

recognize that she is suicidal, despite her saying that she feelslost and sort of

emptyand wantseverything to stoppeople, life.”

When she confides that she was the victim of sexual assault, Mr. Porter describes this

as a regrettabledecisionand says that if she doesnt want to reveal the name of

her attacker, she shouldmove on.”

As she leaves the guidance counselors office, Mr. Porter picks up the ringing phone, implying

that he has already moved on from the discussion.

School counselors have reacted with anger to this depiction of their profession.

The National Association for Suicide Prevention advised educators to reinforce with students

that school mental health professionals are available to help and that Mr. Porters

behavior on the showis understood by virtually all school-employed mental health professionals

as inappropriate.”

One guidance professional called the depiction of Mr. Porters actionsunethical, unrealistic

and even legally dubious,” while another noted that this unrealistic portrayal gave

teenagers the false message that seeking help from mental health professionals would prove

to be adead end for someone whos struggling.”


It equates transgressions that arent equally bad

Its there in the title of the show13 Reasons Whybut some of those 13 reasons

are a lot worse than others.

The crimes each character commits against Hannah vary wildly, but each character and

their transgression are allotted equal time on the tapes.

Bryce, for example, commits a legitimately heinous crimebrutally raping Hannah.

Contrast that to some of the other offenses that warranted tapes from HannahRyan publishing

Hannahs poem (without her name attached) against her wishes or Zach secretly emptying

her compliment jar in class and supposedly crumpling up a heartfelt note from Hannah

(it turns out he never actually did the latter).

Hannah even admits that Clay doesnt actually even deserve to be on the list, but saddles

him with guilt over her death anyway.

While these are all presented as an accumulation of betrayals that lead Hannah to take her

own life, the show doesnt do enough to emphasize that the betrayals Hannah experiences

are in no way equivalent to one another.

It also suggests that there is no real opportunity for Hannah to get relief from any of her traumas

and, while thats likely true of Hannahs embarrassment over the poem publication, there

are certainly numerous avenues through which rape victims can pursue justice.


It provides an inadequate examination of mental illness and makes suicide seem rational

Hannah certainly faces a confluence of terrible life events in the course of the show.

However, while external stressors such as bullying, violence, and loss can certainly

contribute to suicide, they are rarely the only factors that make a person suicidal.

More than 90% of people who die by suicide have risk factors of depression and/or other

mental disorders and/or substance abuse disorders.

Extreme circumstances can serve as a suicide trigger for someone with one of these underlying

conditions, but it is rare that circumstances alone are enough to cause an otherwise healthy

person to pursue suicide.

While the show depicts Hannah suffering from some stereotypical symptoms of depression

(withdrawal, loss of interest in activities, drop in grades), the arc of the narrative

suggests that Hannahs problems (and by extension, her depression) are driven just

by the negative events that she experiences, and are not in any way linked to her underlying

brain chemistry.

This lack of discussion of mental illness on the show suggests that Hannah is pursuing

a rational course of action in choosing to end her life, rather than highlighting the

likelihood that other risk factors existed even before Hannah faced a series of traumatic

events in her life.

By not incorporating the idea of other risk factors, viewers may see Hannahs suicide

as inevitable, rather than appreciating the high probability that with effective treatment

for underlying mental issues, Hannah would likely have had the resilience to cope with

the terrible things she experiences in the course of Season 1.


The show suggests that suicidal individuals can be saved by kindness alone

While even Hannah doesnt blame her friend Clay for her suicide, Clay himself does, saying,

I cost a girl her life because I was afraid to love her.”

Even assurances from a trusted adult that love wouldnt have saved Hannah dont

dissuade Clay (or the audience) from believing it might have.

Clay tells the guidance counselor, “It has to get better, the way we treat each other

and look out for each other.

It has to get better somehow.”

This idea that kindness is the answer to suicide prevention is further reinforced when, at

the end of Season 1, Clay reaches out to Skye, another troubled classmate, and the two are

shown hanging out.

While its hard to argue with a message that promotes kindness (especially to teenage

viewers), there is danger in suggesting that it is a viable method for preventing suicides.

This idea is not only incorrect, it is cruel to the loved ones of someone who has committed

suicide, because it suggests that a kind word or gesture would have been enough to prevent

the act.

Indeed, an astute viewer will notice that a librarian does offer kind words to Hannah

shortly before she kills herself, indirectly refuting this idea, though it is underscored

in other ways throughout the series.

Because mental illness is a factor in most suicides, kindness isnt enough.

If a teen suspects a friend is contemplating suicide, the most effective way of addressing

it isnt just by being kind, but rather by offering support while providing encouragement

and avenues to seek professional help.

The show provides nohow toguide for teens to support suicidal friends, other than

simple kindness, an approach which is unlikely to address the source of suicidal ideation

and therefore, not the most effective way to prevent suicide.


The show promotes the idea that no one can be trusted

Throughout the course of 13 Reasons Why, everyone close to Hannah Baker betrays her.

Her parents are too preoccupied with their own challenges to notice her unhappiness,

her friends and classmates (even those who seem decent initially) turn on her in ways

large and small, her crush sends an explicit photo of her to his friends, her teachers

and counselor dismiss her, and shes left to cope with the aftermath of her sexual assault

with no functional support system.

The show largely reflects Hannahs view that there is no good in the world, a view

that supports Hannahs hopeless spiral.

Even when there are flickers of good, like the librarian who invites Hannah to return

to the poetry group where shes been missed, they arent enough to offset the fact that

everyone close to Hannah lets her down.

Unfortunately, 13 Reasons Why doesnt do enough to distinguish between Hannahs depressed

worldview and the reality that there were people who cared about her and would have

helped if she shared her struggle.

Instead, Hannah signs off her final tape by saying, “Some of you cared, none of you

cared enough.”

Viewers may be left with the incorrect impression that the world is a dark place, full of terrible

people, and vulnerable viewers may be left with the dangerous conclusion that no one

around them is willing to help, and that even those who appear decent will ultimately betray



Hannahs suicide results in justice

Sure, Hannahs suicide devastates her family and friends, but 13 Reasons Why also highlights

a fair number of positive outcomes that result from it.

Hannahs parents sue the school, exposing its pervasive culture of bullying.

Clay pushes Bryce to confess to raping Hannah on tape, suggesting Bryce will have to answer

for his crimes.

Sheri, whose failure to report a stop sign she knocked over resulted in a tragic death,

is moved by Hannahs tapes to confess her role in the accident to the police.

Tyler, who shared a compromising photo of Hannah with classmates, faces his own comeuppance

when Clay shares a naked photo of him with his fellow students, with Clay saying that

hesMaking [his]own justice.”

By showcasing the positive results of Hannahs suicide, the show inaccurately suggests that

her suicide was the only way to get justice, when, in fact, there were likely numerous

other ways to make the wrongdoers account for their actions that didnt require Hannahs



The show blames others for Hannahs suicide

The shows very title suggests that other people (12 other people to be specific) are

the cause of Hannahs suicide.

In fact, Hannah kills herself for just one reason: because she chooses to.

While many of the people on the list did terrible things to Hannah (some more terrible than

others and a couple who, arguably, did nothing wrong), none of those people ultimately ends

Hannahs life.

Hannah does.

The show repeatedly reinforces the idea that others are to blame for Hannahs death not

only through its title, but also through the assessments of those who listen to the tapes

Hannah left behind.

One character (Alex), accepts this blame, arguing to another, “You want to think whatever

you did couldnt be why Hannah killed herself.

But the truth is, I did, I killed Hannah Baker!

And Justin killed Hannah Baker.

And Jessica.

And you.

We all killed Hannah Baker.

However, the idea that everyone who hurt (or failed to help) Hannah is responsible for

her suicide, ignores the role of Hannah (and her underlying mental health) in her own death.

In the vast majority of suicides, while the actions of others can be contributing stressors,

the person committing suicide had an underlying mental disorder (such as depression) and/or

a substance abuse disorder.

Thereason whyis almost always that they did not get treatment for their suicidal

thinking (and the underlying mental conditions for it) when they needed it.

By not exploring this most common actual risk factor for suicide, the show left the false

impression that the actions of others are the primary driver of suicides, and therefore,

largely out of the suicidal persons own control and beyond help through treatment.


The show suggests that suicide is an effective vehicle for revenge and a way to have control

The tapes Hannah leaves behind (and her threat to have a friend expose those who are featured

on the tapes if they dont cooperate) literally force those who Hannah believes have wronged

her to listen to her perspective and obey her instructions.

As one critic complains, “By letting Hannah live on through the tapes, the show not only

undermines the finality of her suicide, it frames suicide as an effective act of vengeance.”

In the series, Hannahs suicide amplified her power (and literally, her voice) and enabled

her to exact revenge on those who wronged her.

Her classmates are sorry when shes gone.

And through flashback sequences, and the tapes, it almost seems as though she is witnessing

the impact of her suicide on those around her.

In real life of course, the person who committed suicide is in no way around to witness the

impact of their death, which is mainly likely to result in pain for loved ones rather than

the fulfillment of a revenge fantasy.

Unfortunately, while suicide isnt an effective way to get power or revenge, some research

shows a desire for control or revenge can be a motivating factor for some suicidal adolescents.

For those vulnerable teens, 13 Reasons Why falsely suggests that suicide can be a path

to achieving those ends.


The show may spark copycat behavior

When 13 Reasons Why debuted, suicide-prevention experts criticized the shows graphic depiction

of Hannahs suicide, highlighting the risk of acontagion effect,” whereby vivid

imagery or intense media coverage of suicides can spark additionalcopycatsuicides.

Given the shows popularity (it was the years most-tweeted about show), its content

reached a large audience, many of whom were teenagers.

A study found that Google searches around suicide increased significantly after the

shows release.

An editorial published in the Journal of American Medicine related to this study further warned

that the ability to binge-watch the series may amplify its negative impact on teens,

noting, “This immersion into the story and images may have a particularly strong effect

on adolescents, whose brains are still developing the ability to inhibit certain emotions, desires,

and actions.”

Indeed, the show itself alludes to the contagion effect, when its final episode of the first

season reveals a classmate of Hannahs has also attempted suicide.

Unfortunately, the shows content may have contributed to the real-world suicides of

three young adults.

A 23-year-old man in Peru committed suicide, leaving behind tapes for those he felt made

his life unbearable.

While there was no explicit reference to 13 Reasons Why, the presence of the recordings

suggests the show may have influenced his behavior.

Families of two California teens who committed suicide also cite the show, and its depiction

of suicide as the only way to escape challenges like cyberbullying and emotional pain, as

a trigger for those suicides.

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