5 Lessons from 13 Reasons Why

I recently shared a story on facebook that I believe shows the author seems to have missed the point of 13 Reasons Why. At that point of sharing that article, I was at EP 8.

I finished the season and while watching it, I kept a mental note of the subtle lessons from what I think is a fantastic trigger to get people talking about suicide the way normal people talk, instead of burying the hard conversations in ‘expert speak’.

Yes, there are spoilers in this post.

  1. Kids who get bullied are angry

The article I posted talks about ‘revenge fantasy’ and how she used the tapes to get revenge and take control of her abusers. Have you been bullied? I have, and so have plenty of people who’ve gone through highschool. In my day, the grade 9’s were forced to push pennies with their nose across the floor. Luckily I grew up the youngest of 5 so when I was cornered, I shoved the person who tried to corner me and told him to fuck off. What some call ‘hazing’ feels like bullying to others but my family had me well prepared for this.

Deal with the anger somehow before it’s too late. A logical and reasonable conversation isn’t appropriate here. The negative energy needs an outlet.

2. It’s not Drama

Hannah is called a drama queen a couple of times during the series, and on the outside, yeah, I can understand that. I knew people like Hannah who took things more personally. Hell, my son is more sensitive than most kids his age so we treat him differently because that’s what he needs. I was the same way when I was a kid, and I still take some things too personally today so I continue to work at it.

If your kid is strong willed, and mentally tough, remember that all kids aren’t like that. They’re not being babied, they’re not wimps, they just have different brains and emotions.

3. Highschool Fucking Sucks

My saving grace is highschool was that I was good at sports. I was never a jock (cripes, I was 90 pounds in grade 9 and half the size of most kids, kinda like Chris Evans at the start of Captain America), and I never had many friends, but I had an outlet in sports. I started playing drums in Grade 11 and that helped too. To this day, when I’m extremely irritated, I play drums to get the negative energy out.

Some adults dismiss what they perceive as highschool drama being nonsense. To kids, it’s not. Highschool can be a really shitty experience so don’t slough it off and say things like “oh well honey, it won’t matter in a few years.

It will.

4. Don’t Placate

The article says to address a conversation with your teen by saying the show is unrealistic and suicide is never the answer. Yes, it’s a fictional story. No, it’s not the answer but saying that is not addressing the problem head on.

Addressing the problem head on would be asking your teen if they have ever thought of suicide. Why did the thoughts start? What’s led to this point? Do you understand what suicide means? Teens are smarter than we often give them credit for, it’s not a nice conversation to have but don’t sweep it under the rug by placating.

5. Suicide is Not an Easy Way Out

I’m amazed at the interpretation from people who say Hannah took the easy way out, and just blamed everyone else for her problems. On the surface, sure, it does look that way.

According to this article, 41% of Canadians are at risk for some type of mental health problem and half-a-million miss time at work because of mental health issues.

Can you imagine what it was like to sit there in a tub of water with a razor blade? No, I’m not referring to Hannah per se, I’m referring to kids who have done this in real life. The confusion, the anger, the frustration of feeling like YOU are the problem and not knowing how to get those thoughts out of your head? I don’t imagine that’s an easy way out. I can’t begin to comprehend feeling of utter despair they must be going through.

‘Experts’ who say that glamorized suicide, and Hannah was selfish to do it, need to re-learn what coping mechanism are, particularly avoidance.

My kids are 10 and 12 and I asked them if kids at school are talking about the show. They said some are, but (I think) they’re too young to understand what’s going on under the surface of 13 Reasons Why.

My 10 year old daughter asked what suicidal thoughts were a few days ago and we told her that it’s when people think about what it would be like to kill themselves. Maybe that was wrong, I don’t know. The point is, I want both of my kids to know they can ask and talk to us about anything. If we don’t know how to answer it, we’ll go talk to someone who can.

Which we’ve done, by the way. Both of my kids have anxiety and there’s history of mental illness in our family so we’ve been to a couple of therapists just to talk about stuff when we’re not sure what to do.

The problem is, people, for some reason, think they need to be ashamed of that. I cried in one session because I felt like a complete failure of a parent because I couldn’t fix that problem.

Do you have any idea how hard it was to write that? If you do, NEVER be ashamed of how you feel, and NEVER be afraid to ask for help.

Much like the first time “damn” was said on TV in the 50’s, and much like the first time an openly gay character showed up on TV, 13 Reasons is a trigger to start a conversation and make it ok for people to say that they’re not ok.

I applaud the shows creators (I haven’t read the book), and I applaud the followup interviews explaining their rationale and resources they’ve brought attention to. Here are a few of them: