13 Reasons Why Did Nothing For Me & I Used to be Suicidal

13 Reasons Why Did Nothing For Me & I Used to be Suicidal

entertainment/pop culture 21 comments by

We all killed Hannah Baker.

Except that isn’t true, or remotely close to true.

I watched the entirety of 13 Reasons Why in two days. Not because it was that good, not because I didn’t see what was coming, and definitely not because I was that invested in the rationale of a suicide.

But because I wanted to write about it, and I wanted to get it over with. And it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that was appropriate to write about without watching from beginning to end.

I saw myself in Hannah Baker more than once. And that’s why I find it so hard to take her seriously.

When I was 15, I was sexually assaulted.

When I was 16, I found out that all of my closest friends were talking about me behind my back, and my best friend and I stopped speaking completely.

When I was 17, I lost my virginity to a football player that I thought I was in love with. But he didn’t care about me the way I cared about him, and like any hormonal teenage girl, I thought that was the end of the world.

At the beginning of senior year, I fell for my best friend. And he fell for me. But our timing was always off, and when I finally thought we’d got it right, I felt him losing interest in me. And on the outside, I handled it with an alarmingly effortless calm. I texted him that we could break up if he wanted to, and he was baffled at not only my ability to understand him without him telling me anything but how unemotional I was. I didn’t text him in paragraphs or caps. I didn’t call him. I didn’t make it anymore difficult than it had to be. But even though I refused to let him see it, I was a mess.

And I was insane. I would cry, and cry, and cry about these things that seemed like matters of life and death in the moment, but were never, ever that deep.

Hannah Baker overreacted. I’m not saying that to be cruel or because I don’t understand her, I’m saying it because it’s true. I’m saying it because I overreacted too, and because acknowledging the triviality of my problems was essential to moving forward for me and getting past some of the darkest times of my life.

Like Hannah Baker, I thought there was something profound about the pain I was in. But there wasn’t, and there rarely ever is.

In the moment, it’s impossible to see most emotional pain for what it is: temporary. We get so invested in these moments of our lives that we forget just how much living we have left to do. We can’t see past the heartbreak of the present, and lose ourselves and all sense of direction in it.

Time after time, Hannah expected others to save her while refusing to actually, explicitly seek help. The show continuously raises the point that you never know what someone else is going through, but fails to realize the irony in blaming teenagers with lives of their own for the death of Hannah Baker. Jessica’s father was in the military, and she was raped by a close friend of hers. Justin was from an impoverished, unstable home with a drug addict mother and a series of her abusive boyfriends. Clay, who had continually tried his hardest to be there for Hannah, had to deal with the death of a good friend, but because they didn’t reach out to Hannah the way she wanted them to or had moments of selfishness or poor judgment we’re supposed to assign them responsibility for a decision they had nothing to do with?

Like Hannah, Alex was also ultimately responsible for the decision he made. But while we’re playing the blame game, are we going to continue to ignore the fact that the obnoxious, narcissistic tapes that Hannah left behind probably played a large part in why Alex decided to end his own life?

I don’t like talking about this because it’s nobody’s business, but I’ve been suicidal. I’ve frantically scribbled goodbye notes before coming to my senses. I’ve been at the train station, flinching towards the tracks. I’ve been staring out of a window, wondering if I was high enough up to end it all and I’ve been high enough up to know that I could, toying with the idea of my own death like a cat with yarn. And it’s with certainty that I can say that every time I’ve been my own hero, and saved my own life.

That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong or weak about asking for help. But Mr. Porter was right when he said that you can’t love someone back to life. And in all honesty, I think it was irresponsible of the show that aimed to raise awareness on suicide and bullying to perpetuate the idea that suicidal girls can be cured by romance with so many young, impressionable viewers. Somewhere, a 15 year old girl struggling with the urge to kill herself is going to enter a relationship, thinking that it will save her and end up frustrated, confused and disappointed when she realizes that all the love in the world means nothing if she doesn’t love herself. I can’t speak for everyone that’s ever struggled with depression or suicidal thoughts, but I believe firmly that we can’t count on other people to show us what we have to live for.

This is only my opinion, but shows like 13 Reasons Why do nothing for people struggling with mental illness or suicidal thoughts. They indulge vulnerable people in their own self pity and victimhood, propelling them into alternate realities void of responsibility, where the world is to blame for their problems. And while it may be what some people would like to hear, it’s not what they need to hear.

The picture that Bryce sent from Justin’s phone didn’t kill her. Alex’s list didn’t kill her. Courtney’s lies didn’t kill her, and Zach stealing her compliments didn’t kill her.

Hannah Baker killed herself, and it’s tragic. She robbed herself of countless opportunities and a future that she’ll never know because she couldn’t move past temporary pain. And as sad as that is, she’s the only person to blame.

21 Comments

  1. Wow this is amazing and I respect you for talking about your own issues you’ve had to deal with! I can relate to this blog a lot actually and I too think that show is so silly and so insensitive that I stopped watching it half way through… completely agree! Really enjoyed reading this!

  2. Thank you for sharing your story!
    I honestly haven’t seen the show yet but have seen many posts on both sides, so I haven’t decided whether to watch it or not.

    • I think that it’s worth giving a shot because so many people have so many different opinions of it, but you’ll probably know whether you’ll like it or not by 3 or 4 episodes in

  3. I agree with you that this show inaccurately portrays people who have been assaulted or with mental illnesses. I think it also kind of makes it seem like suicide is glamorous. It was dramatic and compelling to watch, but I think very unrealistic.

  4. I agree with you that Hannah is responsible for her own decision to end her life. Though, those unkind things that happened to her WERE indeed responsible for the incredible pain she was in. And this is why we need to be more careful with our actions and our words. Kindness, compassion, and empathy is something we all need more of. Taking responsibility for our actions and telling the truth even when we mess up is also needed (so many of those teens hid what they did instead of fessing up and owning it).

    The pain that Hannah was in blinded her to being able to reach out more and ask for help. She felt trapped, and we need to talk to teens about what to do when they feel helpless and trapped. That reaching out to parents and friends is okay when we are lost and don’t know what to do to fix the situation.

    This show is wonderful for discussion about so many topics!

    • I can definitely agree that the show raises many worthwhile discussions! I just think it was a very unfair, one-sided portrayal that never held the main character accountable. In my opinion, that’s a key element in growth and healing.

  5. Thank you for sharing your post and I’m glad you overcame your past. I agree with some of your points. The show does focuses a lot on Hannah Bakers problems and failed to highlight what the other characters were going through and her tapes added added more pressure to their lives. In my opinion, I don’t believe they killed her but their actions led to her breakdown. Most of them had an outlet to release their anger or pain. For example, Justin had Bryce and Zack to go to and vent about his home situation and even a safe space (Bryce’s house) to clear his head when needed. I do agree that this show does nothing for persons experiencing mental health issues and suicidal thoughts but I believe it is a walk up call for some persons who probably contribute to someone in their lives suffering. They may not send embarrassing pictures or even spread rumors but they may hear them and ignore them. Its the classic bystander effect, you see the wrong happening but believe that others are aware as well and they will do something about it. Maybe if someone actually brought the photo or the list to an adult’s attention, there could have been a different outcome. Not saying that this could have worked but it was worth a try. Just my observation

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughtful response. I definitely agree that we could all benefit by taking more consideration into how we treat others, but as a whole I just think the show was very one dimensional and counterproductive.

  6. Wow! Not at all what I expected. I stumbled onto your post in a blog group. I have to confess I’d never heard of this show. That being said, your very insightful, intelligent and extremely well written critique was a great read. If you aren’t a professional writer, you should be. Keep it up!

  7. First I want to say that I haven’t seen the show. You’re writing is great. And you’ve got quite a story to tell. I think you’re right, in that ultimately only each individual can truly save themselves. In a perfect world though, people would see signs and offer support.
    I will say that my friend (A police Officer) earlier this morning, answered a call to a girl’s home who committed suicide. Her sister said that she had just seen this show. I don’ know what the end game was for this show, but the subject is something to be dealt with carefully. It seems to me they weren’t careful enough.
    I’m happy you pulled yourself from a dark place and saved yourself.
    Much Love and Light
    Ani

    • Wow. I can’t believe that happened in such a short period of time. That’s awful. I don’t know what can be done about the show at this point but I do hope they’re much more careful if they decide to turn it into a movie. I agree that in the perfect world we would all notice signs and offer support. It’s just so hard when so many people’s signs look so different, and a lot don’t look like “signs” at all.

      And thank you so much for your kind words!

  8. After reading your article, every word seemed to be everything I was thinking after watching that show, and I feel like I’m reading a lot of my life from your story!

    Thank you for putting this perspective out in the open!! ❤

  9. This was a very enlightening read, and highlights some points that I agree with and debated whilst watching the show. I think the nature of the show derives from responsibility and one of the biggest and arguably most important messages I took, and I hope many other people took, is that you cannot treat someone badly without consequence. Each person who was designated a tape, had some level of denial of their responsibility in Hannah’s decision. And I think the tapes are about opening their eyes to someone else’s reality rather than allowing them to blindly focus on their own and continue hurting other people carelessly. I partly agree that Hannah independently made the choice to commit suicide, but what will push one person over the edge will not be the same for the next person. I think it’s far more important to pressurise and emphasise the importance of treating people fairly and with thought, than to criticise the victim. It’s easy for us to watch and think “well it was her choice”, yes it was, ultimately. But without those experiences Hannah would never have reached that point, and you can’t defend that by saying other people would have put up with more, it’s just not the same for each person. The problem is still the same, it’s the way people feel entitled to treat other people, like less than.

    For example, I hope that the people I met in school watch the show and truly acknowledge and understand how their careless, thoughtless and often vindictive behaviour during school can have detrimental effects. The worst character for me in this show is the Counsellor, and this is probably because it rings so true that there is a severe lack of supportive resource that schools dedicate to their students. He was awful, and 100% partly responsible for Hannah’s decision. He reacted so badly to her cry for help, that he made her feel that there truly was nobody who could help or understand. And I know an awful lot of people who face similar helplessness even after seeking help from a professional.

    There are a lot of things this show could have done better, but there is also a huge amount to take from it. And like you said in previous comments, the level of discussion the show has raised is invaluable.

    Thanks for your insight, and well written post 🙂

    • I think that people should treat people like they want to be treated, and that the show was somewhat successful in delivering that message, but we’ve been hearing that same message since kindergarten, and people are still mean. All of the Netflix series in the world won’t change human nature, so I think that it is more important that people learn to take responsibility for their lives than find ways to blame other people for choices they ultimately make for themselves. I appreciate your input but I’ll agree to disagree.

  10. Thanks for sharing your story. It’s really important to discuss this, and I’m glad you’re putting it out there. To be honest, as I was watching I got exactly the message you’re saying it should have sent. Personally, I just kept thinking how unfortunate it was that she would never get the opportunity to see how much bigger life is, and how different people are after high school if you surround yourself with the right ones. I kept thinking how chaotic her choices made life for everyone else already struggling with their own battles. That her situation was sad and I could empathize, but ultimately she was selfish—even if it was out of despondency and poor mental health.
    I do think a big part of the message is to reach out to help people you see struggling and that high school can be really cruel without a lot of recourse (which I can relate to), but I think my biggest takeaway was that this decision was tragic, but unnecessary and harmful to everyone around her. Clay may have grown from all of this, but he probably could have done it in a healthier way if Hannah hadn’t made the decisions she did.
    I totally agree with you that some people could take the drama of what she did as glorifying it, but to an extent I think it’s a reflection of the way we react to that sort of thing in real life. Posters about prevention without any actual change, and being nicer to people in death than in life. I hope what teenagers take from this is that there’s complexity we can’t fully comprehend in every life and decision, to be kinder to people, and that there is a lot of life to be lived after high school.

    • Yeah my biggest issue with the show is that with the tapes, she turned her suicide into an action of revenge in a sense and didn’t have the decency to make a note for her parents despite all the effort put into guilting her classmates. It made it extremely hard to sympathize with her. Couldn’t agree more, thank you for your input!

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