Content warning: This post deals with suicide.
A 17-year-old in New Zealand has shared her reaction to the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.
Since its release, we have heard how the content glorifies and simplifies suicide. That the graphic exposure to method makes suicide seem more possible, particularly to young viewers. And that the story line, in which suicide is used as a form of revenge, is unrealistic – someone who’s suicided will never witness the aftermath.
“The main failing of this show is that it continues to perpetuate the idea that suicide is a direct result of a person or an event,” writer Bree Brown argues.
“For years, experts have emphasised that suicide is always a culmination of many causes, and almost always those who suicide have severe mental health issues. Having someone suicide and then make tapes blaming other people for her death makes it seem like suicide is caused by one specific thing.”
Mental health organisations have condemned the show’s messaging. HeadSpace has issued a warning to parents about the content.
All this discussion is valid, but we haven’t heard from, or listened to, young people – the show’s target audience.
Bree is the exact person the producers of 13 Reasons Why were picturing when they created the series. They were thinking of her; face lit up by the laptop or television screen and holed up in her bedroom, when they cast Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker.
They were picturing her going to school the next day, tired from watching the show while she was meant to be sleeping, as they positioned Hannah’s body in the scene of her rape.
Bree was front of mind, sitting with her friends on the concrete pavement comparing lunches and talking about the show, when Netflix producers created the bathroom scene in the final episode. When they were deciding the best way to show Hannah taking her own life.
I wonder if the same producers knew how it would make people like Bree feel? That there's no one there to listen or to help?
"Teenagers don’t know who we can talk to – sometimes we don’t know if we can talk to our parents," Bree said. "We do see Hannah going to a counsellor – which doesn’t work for her – but other than that she tells no one of her suicidal thoughts."
"That’s a horrible and potentially devastating message for teenagers who are often struggling with their own suicidal or self harming thoughts and may need help themselves."
Bree reminds her peers that there are organisations such as Headspace that offer help for young people struggling with mental health issues.
She has also issued a reminder to parents.
"Make sure your teenager knows that you are there for them and can support them," Brown wrote. "Let them know you want to know what’s going on with them, not so you can punish them but so they can open up safely."
And if you think they're struggling?
"Ask them. Ask them who they could go to for help if they don’t want to talk to you," Bree continued. "Forcing your teenager to talk to you will only make them feel controlled. A subtle word to their school counsellor could also help."
Is 13 Reasons Why Helpful or Dangerous? Post continues below.
The popularity of 13 Reasons Why is seen at the same time suicide in Australia is at the highest rate it's been in 10 years.
The Causes of Death Report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics showed 3,027 people died from self-harm in 2015. That's more than eight people every day. One person every three hours.
We know that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.
Bree Brown is the target audience for 13 reasons Why - a show that tells teenagers there's no one to turn to, no one to seek help from when they're struggling and that suicide is a form of revenge. A show that depicts suicide as a solution or a way to prove a point.
She is also part of a group that is killing themselves at a rate higher than we've seen in a decade.
Suicide for teenagers is already too much of a reality. It shouldn't be their entertainment as well.