An audience divided, viewers of 13 Reasons Why have had a lot of opinions on how the show televised rape, bullying and suicide. Schools are warning children not to watch it, young adults are calling it 'too triggering'. But the reality is that this series promotes vital themes that adolescents need to face and better understand. 13 Reasons Why shows us just how much words can affect a person, to the point that something tragic can happen. In a day and age where it is all too easy to bully and abuse and think nothing of it, here are six reasons why 13 Reasons Why teaches us imperative lessons about life in high school, and how we can help young adults to be better.
1. It raises awareness. We all know teen suicide happens, but it can be all too simple to dismiss if it doesn't affect us. Hannah's story shows us all just how easy it is to feel like the world would be better off without you, and how we can overcome this.
2. It's encouraged debate about mental health. I'm sure everyone has seen the memes circulating the internet, and while humour is one way of dealing with the issues faced in this series; there has also been a lot of debate online regarding how we react to these themes. Be it a joke about guacamole or the reaction to it, awareness is being raised and that it itself is a good thing.
3. It forces us to understand different contexts of rape. Hannah's rape and Jess' are both completely different. But they both happened, and that's what matters. Showing both rape scenes highlights that rape and sexual abuse can happen anywhere, and helps us to recognise how differently people can react.
4. It shows us just how easy it is to forget that everyone has their own issues. Sure, Justin wasn't a nice guy. But the sympathy we feel when his personal life is revealed proves that we have no idea what happens behind closed doors or why a person does what they do.
5. It exposes major problems in the school system. Be it high school or secondary school, depending on where you live in the world; it is no secret that a lot of teaching staff are not well equipped to deal with issues such as bullying and mental health. Hannah and Clay's interactions with Mr Porter highlight key issues regarding adolescent mental health in a school setting, and shows that improvements need to be made.
6. It shows the reality of suicide. A lot of people think that this shouldn't have happened, but this is a reality for many people and families daily. Showing Hannah's suicide scene, and how hard it was for her to experience, illustrates how far she was pushed and just how much of a last resort this was. It's not romanticised, it's not 'too graphic'. This is a reality and this is how much words can hurt a human being.
We can say we're aware of how much of a problem teen suicide is, we can talk about how tragic it can be for a young person to take their own life. But until we see the effects that teen bullying can have on a young life, we will never know just how much words can hurt. That is the reality of the world we live in, a reality where there are a lot of teenagers taking their lives for a lot more than thirteen reasons.
If you've been affected by any of the issues raised by this article or its subject matter, please visit http://www.samaritans.org for 24/7 help and support.