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Photo: Courtesy of NetflixMental Health

What 4 Suicide Attempt Survivors Thought About "13 Reasons Why"

"It had good intentions, but fell short."

Ever since 13 Reasons Why came out on Netflix in April, there's been numerous articles written about the series' depiction of suicide and explanation (or lack thereof) of the reasons why people might choose to take their own lives. While some say the show opens up the conversation surrounding suicide, many experts are concerned with the way suicide is portrayed and the lack of direct address of mental health, and note it could be potentially influential on people who are experiencing suicidal ideation.

It's also crucial to have suicide attempt survivors explain what issues they had with the series and how it can improve in the future, especially since it's coming back for a second season. Ahead, survivors explain how they felt about 13 Reasons Why and where they believe the show fell short.

"I thought there were a few good things (most notably the inclusion of trigger warnings), but overall, my reaction was fairly negative. I saw the series as a melodrama about a girl who was 'bullied to death.' We don't really have any knowledge of who Hannah is prior to her death. There's no mention of her being mentally ill or depressed. I have a huge issue with the fact that the word 'depression' is never uttered once. I feel like 'the blame game' is played a lot in regards to her death, with emphasis placed on what has been done to her rather than her own story." - Caitlin C.

"I think that 13 Reasons Why had good intentions, but fell short. When talking about suicide, we need to follow suicide prevention research and lived experience. I've read and watched all there is about why the show handled suicide the way it did, but I don't believe that their intentions came through clearly or that their intent matters more than lives at risk. There are ways to be truthful and honest and real without ignoring best practices and research. My feelings are generally negative, and disappointed that a show with such a wide, broad audience and capability to enact real change decided to go about it in a way that could cause harm. I also feel that they missed an opportunity to shed light on mental illness. People have come out in defense saying that the show isn't about mental illness, that it's about bullying, but in the show, you can see that some characters are struggling with things like depression, anxiety and PTSD. Bullying is a risk factor for mental illness and suicide, and I feel that the show could have done more good by naming the illnesses and not just glossing over them." - Alyse Ruriani

"When you’re filming a series about suicide or mental illness or anything in that regard, one of the things I really firmly believe the media needs to do is [take] responsibility and offer a message for help. You don’t want to write another piece on a child dying by suicide. You want to say, ‘This is something we can prevent, this is something we can fix. If you’re feeling suicidal or in danger, this is the number you need to call. They’re here to help you 24/7.’ And 13 Reasons Why didn’t do that. One of the things I blasted about the series was how [the show] implied that all of the adults were oblivious, because even in the most extreme cases, there’s going to be at least one adult who’s reaching out and keeping tabs on things. [For example], that guidance counselor [who said he couldn't help] after Hannah said she was raped, is either the [worst] counselor and should’ve been fired years ago, or the producers decided that was a good idea. [In reality,] that doesn’t happen. That’s something that bothered me, how they portrayed the adults as so incompetent and so uncaring. In the worst of it, there were still adults I could trust and could talk to. They took that away from Hannah; they completely isolated her." - Ashley C.

"I have a book's worth of thoughts on [13 Reasons Why]. My main issues are that the premise is unrealistic, it perpetuates long-held negative views of suicidal people and Hannah's suicide scene was gratuitous. I've heard people say that the show is starting conversations about suicide and bullying. I don't believe that a conversation is worth having if it isn't productive, and I don't think a lot of these conversations are productive, so I don't necessarily buy the idea that [13 Reasons Why] is a good conversation starter. Also, some awareness campaigns out there have been proven to be harmful, so awareness for the sake of awareness isn't a great argument. I've also heard people say that the show made them realize they should be nicer to other people and I think, if it takes somebody literally taking their own life to make you realize you need to be nicer to other people, then there are some way bigger problems to attend to." - Dese'Rae L. Stage

If you or someone you know was trigged by 13 Reasons Why, you can check out this list of resources for getting help. If you need immediate assistance, you can call the Trevor Project's 24/7 Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Related: Where to Find Help If You Are Triggered By "13 Reasons Why"

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