Perspectives from a teen working on a teen-to-teen crisis line
By Molly Benson
TLDR: We want you to know that struggling alone, feeling isolated, and dealing with pain is really hard. You don’t have to deal with it alone. There is help and hope. YouthLine offers support for whatever you are going through. Teens are available to help daily from 4-10pm Pacific Time (adults are available by phone at all other times): text “teen2teen” to 839863, call 877-968-8491, chat www.oregonyouthline.org or email YouthL@linesforlife.org.
- Ignores advice of mental health professionals. As a YouthLine volunteer, I was intrigued to hear that Netflix consulted with a medical professional before creating the show. But, they chose to ignore the advice of leading suicide prevention organizations that have developed Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide. The show ignores all of the recommendations in a series of graphic scenes, including showing both suicide and self-harm on camera.
- Social media-inspired content. To be fully honest I intended to avoid all content from 13RW as much as possible until I saw this post in my “suggested images” on Instagram. Content warning: suicide
- Graphic depiction of violence. As shown in the trigger warnings below, 13RW deals with number of serious topics, all of which are shown on screen. Not only can these be triggering or uncomfortable for many viewers, they are also unnecessary and showing the suicides and rape on screen do not add to the impact of the story.
- Glorification of suicide. The show makes suicide feel romantic and over-dramatizes just about everything. We forget that when people take their own life, they don’t get the closure the show portrays. By the end of 13RW, those who knew Hannah have come to idolize her and it seems like suicide was the only way for her to have an impact on the world. But a person who dies by suicide doesn’t get that satisfaction.
- Ignoring signs of suicide. It’s no spoiler that Hannah Baker dies by suicide, but when other characters show signs of mental illness and suicidal ideation they are dismissed.
- Hannah asks for help over and over and doesn’t get support. Hannah is turned away whenever she displays any kind of help-seeking behavior, which could also discourage viewers of the show from reaching out. Even her school guidance counselor is dismissive of her feelings and of the invitations to ask about suicide.There are ways to get good support. Sometimes adults aren’t the worst. And many times people do get help. It’s too bad the show doesn’t show all of the good that can and does happen for teens when they reach out for help. Working on the YouthLine I see it all the time. If you are reading this and are feeling suicidal, there is hope and there are people who want to support you. Please reach out if you want someone to talk to about the thoughts you are having.
- Healthy coping is ignored. 13RW glorifies suicide to the point where it seems like the only way to express one’s feelings or have an impact is to die by suicide. This does not offer any healthy coping methods or resources to turn to if a viewer is in a similar situation.
All the guilt and shame. There is such a strong aspect of guilt and hopelessness within the show and no support is shown for the people who were impacted by Hannah’s death. A common feeling for people with suicidal ideation is a feeling of isolation, which itself increases the likelihood of suicide.
There is also an idea that if someone were to do or say the wrong thing they could be the cause of a suicide. This is not the case, suicide is a very personal experience and one statement or action is not the determining factor. It’s okay to talk about suicide and doing so can make the difference in someone getting the help they need.
- The idea that you can love feelings out of someone. This 13RW screencap has been floating around and to put it simple… it’s’ a whole lot of “no.” Unfortunately, while support is crucial for recovery, there is no magic amount of love that will cure mental illness. Getting help takes tremendous strength and is key to recovery.
- Revenge. 13RW has an element of Hannah trying to “get even” with the people who wronged her. The fact of the matter is that she is not alive to witness the impact of her actions, AND she also causes a lot of pain to those around her.
- Perspective. The tapes are Hannah’s story, but the show isn’t. Instead it focusses on how self-harm, bullying, and suicide affect other people. Hannah’s story is common to a lot of high school students and is in no way isolated, but the focus is not solely on her story.
- Implication of cause and effect. Reaching out and getting support has an effect; staying silent does not. The best way to help yourself or someone else in this situation is to talk to a mental health professional.
- My final frustration. How trivialized a serious issue can be. Recently, there have been a rise in online posts (memes) making fun of the show. While humor can be a coping mechanism for a lot of people, it shows a lapse in judgement when the show’s creators minimize how serious the issue at hand is. The “this is your tape” joke shown below shows how disconnected people can pretend to be from the issue of suicide.
If you need support, there is help and hope. YouthLine offers support for whatever you are going through. Teens are available to help daily from 4-10pm Pacific Time (adults are available by phone at all other times):