The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why has been making a lot of heads spin. Yes, it’s true there were a number of people in Hannah Baker’s life that let her down (13 to be exact). Feelings of shutting down, isolation and loneliness are real and relatable. Although I have not tried to commit suicide, I have felt hurt, heartbreak, defeat, embarrassment, hopelessness and sometimes painfully alone. These overwhelming feelings have led to thoughts…thoughts that are painful to consider.
What worries many adults about this show, however, is that young viewers will walk away from the show believing that suicide is the only solution to these feelings and thoughts, and that a person who ends her life gets to “come back” and see how others respond to her death. Hannah, after all, is a major character in the show even though she has died. In real life, once you are dead, you are dead. You will not see the fruits of your “revenge.”
If you’re sensitive like I am, and heartbreaking graphic scenes bother you, then I do not recommend watching 13 Reasons Why. If you have or are currently experiencing trauma and feel depressed, then I do not recommend watching 13 Reasons Why. I don’t recommend that anyone watch it. That being said, I can’t stop you from watching. What I would like to do is empower you with information, solutions, and resources that will equip you with a better understanding of how to manage any feelings of depression or loneliness you may be experiencing.
Awareness: Consider ALL factors
Mental health. Stay with me here. There are biological and psychological factors that may be contributing to how you’re feeling. There certainly were for Hannah. Some people are more vulnerable to depression than others based on their family history. Past history and other life events that may have caused trauma are also factors in how you’re feeling on a daily basis or how you’re able to handle stressful events. Don’t get me wrong, dealing with shaming, backstabbing and bullying isn’t easy for anyone. But most people who experience these things don’t resort to suicide. In other words, there are many factors you need to be aware of that should be considered if you feel as though you’re not able to manage your emotions or you feel that your emotions are taking over your ability to find enjoyment and happiness in your life.
Caring for Yourself and Others: Learn to check-in with your feelings
Identifying your feelings is an important part of managing your emotions. There will be times throughout the day when it will be helpful to “check-in” with yourself. Are you feeling stressed, insecure, disappointed? Bringing awareness to your emotions allows you to come up with a solution or self care strategies. Take a brief moment for yourself, take a deep breath and do something that will help you get through the day. Start with positive self-talk, seek out a friend that makes you smile, listen to music, play with your dog. You get the idea! This practice will get easier the more you do it. Your confidence will build knowing that you have the power to handle life’s challenges.
Be in touch with what’s happening in your life and the people around you:
- Evaluate your friendships and surround yourself with people that accept you so you can always feel comfortable being yourself. Do you feel happy when you spend time with your friend? Do you feel supported when you’re having a bad day?
- Take the time to let people know that they matter and tell them the reasons why. Do you admire a special quality in them? Do they inspire you in some way? The power of your words can have a meaningful impact on someone that may be struggling. And being kind to someone else makes YOU feel good!
- Reach out for a friend or peer if you have concerns about his or her wellbeing. Your radar may be tweaked if you notice a change in someone’s mood, appearance, or if they’re not acting like themselves.
- Check out your school or community resources. Can you be the one that starts a support program or can you get involved in making improvements to an existing program?
THE MOST IMPORTANT MESSAGE OF ALL: THERE ARE ADULTS WHO KNOW HOW TO HELP YOU!!
For many adults, the most unsettling aspect of 13 Reasons Why was the fact that all the adults in the show were clueless. Hannah’s guidance counselor made matters worse for her. The principal was a joke. In real life, there are MANY adults who are trained to help kids like Hannah. In real life, guidance counselors are trained to deal with kids’ emotions.
Friends can be comforting and caring, but they do not have the experience or training to provide the best advice. Someone who is feeling as hopeless as Hannah did cannot be expected to have all the answers. If you are feeling like she did, reach out to a trusted adult. And keep reaching out until you find someone who will listen and take helpful action. That person can provide the support you need or can guide you to seeking the help you need to feel better.
Oh, and one last thought. Sometimes when we’re feeling down we believe that a potential listener, friend, or adult is too busy or stressed to help. It’s okay to put your needs first. Your feelings matter and you’re worth it!
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline Network: 24/7 Crisis Hotline
Text TALK to 741-741 to text with a trained crisis counselor from the Crisis Text Line for free, 24/7
Trevor Lifeline – http://www.thetrevorproject.org
LGBTQ specific crisis intervention and suicide prevention. Phone service available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386 or text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline
Shari Frolove, M.A., specializes in confidence-building and coping skills through individualized sessions to support tween girls and their families. Tween Guidance is a resource for helping girls develop a strong sense of themselves, and successfully navigate the challenges of 21st century tween life with confidence. Visit www.TweenGuidance.com or email Shari@tweenguidance.com