“13 Reasons Why” Sets an Example for Impressionable Teens

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“13 Reasons Why” Sets an Example for Impressionable Teens

Katharine Langford as Hannah Baker (left) and Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen (right) in

Katharine Langford as Hannah Baker (left) and Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen (right) in "13 Reasons Why." Photo Credit to Beth Dubber/Netflix

Katharine Langford as Hannah Baker (left) and Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen (right) in "13 Reasons Why." Photo Credit to Beth Dubber/Netflix

Katharine Langford as Hannah Baker (left) and Dylan Minnette as Clay Jensen (right) in "13 Reasons Why." Photo Credit to Beth Dubber/Netflix

By Gemma Sturgeon, Managing Editor

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The recently released Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” is raising conversations about suicide and mental health in general, but is the content too raw and real for the eyes of the public?

The series is based on the best-selling novel written by Jay Asher, and follows Hannah Baker, a teenage girl who takes her own life and leaves behind tapes for each person who she believes drove her to the point of suicide.

Controversy regarding the series has intensified due to fears that younger viewers will see the show as an example of an “easy” way to get out of any hard situations they are going through.

The premise of the show, revolving around Hannah’s ‘revenge’ towards everyone she feels wronged her, has the potential to lead youth to misinterpret how permanent suicide is.

Although the series brings up important topics such as sexual assault, bullying, and suicide, Hannah Baker’s love interest in the show, Clay Jenson, distracts from the severity of these situations, giving teenagers the impression that Clay could have ‘saved’ Hannah.

In reality, mental health issues are not problems simple enough for a cute boy at school to solve; however, Clay’s character does serve to symbolize how crucial it is for those struggling mentally to have someone to talk to.

The show fell short in the way that Hannah’s previous mental health was not ever taken into consideration, displaying suicide as a surface level solution or a casual revenge tactic for people who are mistreated.

According to Rolling Stone, tapes being used instead of a suicide letter, again, distracts from the true intensity and permanence of suicide and could desensitize ignorant individuals to suicide.

The biggest concern— among parents specifically— is how Hannah’s actions might influence impressionable teenagers, especially those with pre-existing mental health problems. Just as young girls wanted to be Katniss Everdeen during The Hunger Games franchise, there is a risk that the same might happen with the seemingly heroic Hannah Baker.

According to The Chicago Tribune interview with Dori Marges, who is a clinical social worker, claims that individuals who have the risk of experiencing a negative impact by watching the show, including those with depression or substance abuse problems, should refrain from watching “13 Reasons Why.”

In the final episode of “13 Reasons Why,” Hannah turns to her school counselor who tells her to move on after she discloses her sexual assault experience to him. This refusal to help Hannah is not only illegal for any school administrative figure to do, but it gives the youth a very inaccurate depiction of the reaction they would receive if they went through a similar trauma.

Because I was curious about hearing the perspective of a school counselor from Dos Pueblos High School on “13 Reasons Why” and mental health in general, I talked to Head Counselor Susie Stone, to hear her thoughts on the matter and localize the issues.

Q: What was your initial reaction to the idea of “13 Reasons Why?”

A: My initial reaction to the idea of the show was ‘that sounds so irresponsible’ because I think the last thing anybody in education or in mental health fields wants teenagers to think is that revenge is a reason to commit suicide. Just to hurt other people. Ultimately when people die, whether it’s by suicide or by natural causes, it’s the people that are still around that are most affected regardless. The good that can come out of this, again, I don’t love the premise of it, but I’m hopeful that what it will do is give students a forum to talk about it, and hopefully the show provides appropriate resources.

Q: Thoughts on the scene where the counselor denies help to Hannah Baker?

A: I really hope that no one here at DP would think that a counselor wouldn’t support them, and provide them with appropriate resources. That is not our training, especially for something, such as sexual assault, that is criminal. Hopefully it was so unrealistic that nobody would take it seriously, and that they know that we are not here to do therapy, but we are here to provide support, and resources. It is really normal for people to have suicidal thoughts, that is not uncommon for people every now and again, to think ‘gee this really sucks.. I wonder.’ I think understanding that those feelings are normal, but when it gets to a point where people are feeling hopeless, these kind of shows gives people the ability to talk about it. Hopefully to have a normal conversation, and not to be afraid to talk to their friends, or for their friends to come to find adults on campus whether it be their teachers or counselor.

Q: How important is putting mental health first here at DP?

A: It is huge. I actually just got an email today, they are starting at all of the high schools in Santa Barbara, this Wellness Club. So it’s going to be a part of this mental wellness council, on campus they’re going to have Wellness Connection clubs. Ideally what they want to do is start creating these clubs on campus to take the stigma out of mental health, and provide a forum to let students be leaders on the topic. Just to help people learn about mental wellness as well as mental health concerns and to give them necessary resources. Specifically in our school system, our district is looking very, very intently at the situation. We are actually getting the counselors district-wide doing psychological first-aid training.


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