A look at ’13 Reasons Why’

13 Reasons Why, a Netflix original, has quickly become a hot topic in middle schools and high schools across the country. It has left many parents, doctors, psychologists and other adults concerned about what teenagers are thinking, and what this show means for the young adults in their lives. This show has had both positive and negative reviews from many, many people. It follows a high school girl, Hannah Baker, who dies by suicide and leaves a series of video tapes essentially blaming different people in her life for her death.

The debate is heated on both sides of the controversy, whether this series is helpful or harmful in addressing the issue of mental health and suicide. Janina Scarlet, PhD, wrote in Psychology Today, that Hannah’s story may “depict suicide as an act of vengeance against bullying.” There is a worry of copycat suicide attempts, and concern about perpetuating the thought that there is someone to blame for suicide, (Scarlet, 2017).

However, on the other side of the issue, there may be some salient things that this series offers. Scarlet mentions that it has brought attention to the issue, allowing some teenagers to talk about it, or at least making conversations about suicide more relevant, (Scarlet, 2017). It can offer parents, and other adults and professionals a new way of approaching the topic of suicide, and may help young adults bring it up in a less threatening way.  Furthermore, it may give youth and adults some ideas about warning signs and risk factors that they can watch out for in people around them. The show also sheds light on other important issues of drunk driving and sexual assault.

Regardless of one’s opinion about the show 13 Reasons, it is important to talk about suicide. If you, or anyone you know, is having thoughts about suicide, don’t hesitate to get help.

If you, or anyone you know, is having thoughts about suicide, do not hesitate to seek help. Here are a list of resources and strategies to when addressing suicide prevention:

  • National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-TALK
  • Text “START” to 741741.
  • Here in Fort Collins, SummitStone Health Partners has both a crisis line (970-494-4200, and also a walk in crisis center at 1217 Riverside Ave., Fort Collins. Both the crisis line, and the walk in crisis center are available 24 hours.
  • Seek professional help, or encourage a loved one to do so. Sometimes loved ones just need encouragement to begin therapy.
  • If you are a member of the CSU community, and concerned about a friend or colleague, there is the Tell Someone hotline (970)-491-1350, where you can discuss concerns with a professional. For more information visit their website at supportandsafety.colostate.edu/tellsomeone.
  • Initiate honest conversations with teens about suicide and other tough mental health issues
  • A popular misconception is someone can “give” another person the idea of suicide, or “plant the seed”. Do not shy away from conversations like this, especially if the teen in your life brings it up. It is extremely unlikely that initiating conversations about suicide will put people at risk for suicide. Don’t be afraid to talk, and seek professional help whenever necessary.
  • Encourage watching 13 Reasons with teens, maybe in a public place. It will give space to talk about it, and also allow a concerned adult to monitor how well the teen is coping and responding to the subjects explored in the series

Reference: Scarlet, Janina. (2017). Psychology in “13 Reasons Why”. Psychology Today Online.

By Morgan Burke

Morgan is a second year graduate student in the Marriage and Family Therapy Program. She graduated from Colorado State University with a Bachelors of Science in human development and family studies. Morgan grew up on her families’ farm in rural eastern Nebraska, and loves everything related to animals, baking, and being outdoors. Morgan believes that there is something to learn from everyone you encounter in a day, and that the power of positive thinking can work miracles. Morgan’s dreams for the future include working with adolescents and veterans using Animal-Assisted Therapy.

The Center For Family and Couple Therapy is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.