Like lots of people, I’ve found myself fixated by Netflix drama ‘13 Reasons Why’, binge watching when I should have been binge sleeping. The show tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student suffering from depression thanks to being the victim of cyber bullying, stalking, sexual assault and many other soul destroying experiences. Hannah takes her own life, leaving behind audiocassettes detailing the 13 reasons that pushed her to the edge. Each episode covers one tape side, documenting one reason (and one person) that contributed to her taking this fatal step.
Although the idea of a teenager using tape cassettes lacks real world credibility, it’s a captivating device that keeps you yearning for the ‘next side’. But it’s not an easy watch, and the show has been much criticised for glamorising suicide, with many suggesting that the idea of revenge from beyond the grave may (unintentionally) prove attractive to those in similar states of distress. On the flip side, ’13 Reasons Why’ examines really important issues facing the youth of today. It makes the audience think about how we could all do a little more to look out for each other – a message that’s of critical importance for people of every age, not just teens.
My children are young, so I don’t know how I would feel if I had teenagers and they wanted to watch it. I suspect I would insist on watching it with them, so that we could openly discuss the issues. To me, regardless of your opinion of the show, this is its one true strength – as a prompt into topics that are pretty impossible to bring up otherwise.
As a parent, it reminded me to cherish this time when my children are so young. Their minds know no dark; instead they’re filled with thoughts of ponies and football, not self-doubt and paranoia. I always know where they are. They tell me literally every thought they have (I will now stop groaning at this fact!). I am fully embraced; I am never shut out.
As a person, it makes me think about the times I have been very low myself. My daughter’s illness has occasionally brought my own mind to dark places and while I consider myself generally a very level-headed person, I’ve found these thoughts extremely hard to deal with. I’ve had panic attacks, I’ve had fleeting thoughts of ending the torturous emotional pain, I’ve cried tears that I thought would never stop. And while I’ve been able to shake myself out of it, it’s made me realise how easily a seemingly strong person could mentally slip into considering the unthinkable.
Our children have a lot more to deal with than we ever did. We didn’t grow up online. Our mistakes weren’t posted on the Internet to follow us around forever. And we didn’t have to grow up half as quickly. If we learn only one thing from this show, I think it’s that we should never dismiss how someone is feeling, whether they’re a child or an adult. Even if the trigger for low mood doesn’t seem all that serious to us, it could be everything to them. We’re all so busy trying to keep up with our chaotic lives that we forget to ask each other how we’re doing. So whether you loved ’13 Reasons Why’ or hated it, make it one good reason to ask someone how they’re doing today. Make it one good reason to remind your children that they can talk to you about anything, without worrying about getting into trouble. Make it one good reason to be kinder to people – because the truth is, you just never know what’s going on behind the façade.
Image from Netflix