13 Reasons Why: Raising awareness or glorifying teen suicide?

**WARNING** Spoilers ahead

I recently jumped on the binge-watching bandwagon of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why. In just the short few months since the show’s release it has already gotten rave reviews, gone viral all over the internet, and despite only having been released a few short months ago people are anxiously awaiting the announcement of a Season 2.

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But despite the show’s popularity, many parents are having a difficult time deciding whether or not its an appropriate show for their kids to watch. They’re raising the question is this really how we want our children to view suicide? Is this okay? That despite the horrific outcome they play out for you in the show, you catch your angsty teenager scrounging around for your old Walkman cassette player? Maybe that’s just a horrible thought that runs through any parent’s mind at one point or another… But as sad as it is, this issue is more present today then ever before for today’s youth.

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Here you have Hannah Baker, the new girl in school. She’s beautiful, and almost too smart for her own good. With such an artistic mind and a way with words, something a lot of us lose between the years of teen to young adult when most parents are piling on the college applications. She has a charm that allows her to put on a brave face no matter what she’s feeling. She’ll spit a snarky comment right back at her well-off, slut-shaming counter parts. But she has a fixed fate… We all know what the show is about.

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But what is the flaw in this? Yes, Hannah Baker went through some horrible things… Things no one should have to go through. But where is her support system? Her friends leave her merely out of pressure from their peers, her parents discount her feelings. There is still no recognition to this day of the effects of your mental health in comparison to your physical.

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The ever diminishing department of Health Education in our country has no set or cohesive course on mental health between states. Although our Sexual Health Education department is getting better, is a better understanding of how your brain is maturing needed just as much as how your body is? The correlation between mental and physical health is not so easily focused. Many to this day discount the ever present effects of coping with an illness such as anxiety or depression. Where is the fine line between a cry for help and a cry for attention?

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Enter Clay Jensen, also a handsome young man with bright eyes and a bright future. Seems to be the athletic type, but between his hands-off Father and cut throat lawyer Mother, some how his creative side blossoms in every bunny rabbit note he slips into Hannah’s compliment bag. And some how, with everything going for him, he is lost. The pressure to succeed in something “acceptable” is becoming ever so heavy. So much so that his parents think he needs a pick me up, as they toss him a pill bottle full of anti-depressants. Get him back on track right?

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But in Hannah’s story there are many other factors. There are rumors, pictures, rape… but where such harsh situations as these do still exist in our world what does it take to get to this point? What happened to the line between right and wrong?

Our youth need the resources to better understand what is going on in their own heads. That its okay to not know at times. That its okay to ask for help, and you wont be shunned for it. That sometimes you feel the way you do purely out of circumstance or the actions of others, like Hannah Baker. But that its also okay to feel that way, even if you seem like you have everything going for you, like Clay or Zach.

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Sometimes depression and anxiety are present when there is no reason at all. And that’s okay too. What we really need to do, is strengthen our children’s coping mechanisms before it reaches a level no longer under our control.

Counseling services and medication aren’t always needed and should be used on a purely case by case basis after first consulting with a Doctor or Physician. But open conversation and acceptance is an issue we need to stress. Deciding when you need to seek out help for yourself or your child is a difficult process, but in doing so does not show weakness. It shows strength. Now that is awareness.

*All rights reserved to Netflix

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