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A study has found that '13 Reasons Why' has raised suicide risk in young people

Anyone who knows me well will know that I have never supported and never will support the creation of this show.

The reason I am talking about this now is that the negative effects I expected it might produce are proven to be happening right now. The study in question has stated that as many as half of suicidal teenagers being treated in hospitals have said that the show contributed to their suicide risk, and to me, this is not only terrifying, but it is not at all surprising.

Having read the book as an adolescent, I put off watching the series for a long time when it came out.

This was because as a teenager going through the difficulties of school, hormones and confusing emotions, the book had quite a negative effect on me for a short period of time. I had a friend who recommended books to me, and we went through a phase of coming-of-age, slightly depressing 'I hate my life' kind of books which were, funnily enough, actually aimed at teenagers.

After finishing the (frankly, depressing) book, I myself began to pick apart every element of my life, telling myself that while I seemed to have everything, I felt like I had nothing. It's almost embarrassing to think back to that now—as I was very much being dramatic about my situation—but the fact that this book managed to make a fairly stable and happy teenager, such as me, contemplate how terrible life could be if I focused on it, makes me wonder what on earth it does to adolescents tackling real, serious issues.

Even though I tried to avoid the show when it first aired, I still couldn't seem to escape it.

On Instagram, I had started browsing on the 'explore' section, and I found it shocking how quickly my timeline was filled with video compilations of teenagers screaming and crying, with grey filters and random book quotes about depression, self-harm, and suicide. They sickened me, especially when I began to discover that the people making these accounts were clearly very young.

The series had started a process of romanticising mental health issues, making a whole generation of vulnerable teenagers begin to obsess over how terrible their life was and how much they wanted to commit suicide. I even found out that the younger sibling of someone I knew, who had never even contemplated or discussed things such as mental health, had suddenly started saying on social media that she wanted to self-harm.

While it is good that a narrative was built around the subject of mental health and more people were becoming willing to open up, it went too far. Young teenagers going through emotional difficulties started attributing their feelings towards graver issues and began to think that because of how they felt the only way to get people to understand or care about them was to self-harm or commit suicide.

When I finally caved and decided to watch season one, I realised quite quickly what a waste of my time this show would be.

The plot in itself held quite true to the book: trivial, flat and full of misery. One of my favourite genres of film or series is the kind that sheds light on serious issues but has some heart-warming, beautiful moments that reinvigorate your faith in humanity and the world (plus some comedy never goes amiss to lighten the mood). However, 13 Reasons Why did not have any depth or levels to the emotions it was trying to make the viewer feel. It was constantly miserable, flat in tone and never made you feel like what you just watched was worth it.

It was also, in my opinion—and many others'—far, far, far too graphic. Real talent in screenwriting involves leaving a certain amount to the imagination, and the things I saw in season one and have heard about from season two are things that no-one should have to see to understand the gravity of. It is a cheap way of trying to have an impact and get media attention.

One of the biggest issues is not just that the series glorifies suicide, but it makes it an option.

People who are struggling with mental health often feel that they have no choice but to commit suicide in their situation, and had this show demonstrated more of an effort on the part of the protagonist to seek help I might actually have seen the point. However, Hannah makes one attempt to ask for help, and when this falls flat she instantly gives up, not turning to family, friends, nor any kind of professional help. This, she claims, was the final straw.

What this does is teach people who are struggling that the only thing that will help them is suicide. Many people, especially young teenagers, already aren't aware of their options, and this series basically says that you don't have any.

13 Reasons Why had the unique opportunity to show young people how to cope with mental health issues, bullying and even sexual abuse, and it fell completely flat.

Rather than opening up a dialogue about mental health that teaches young people how to get help, it reminds them of problems they have to face and tells them that the only solution to these problems is suicide.

I did not watch season two, and I never will—it's not worth my time or energy, and I don't think it's worth yours.

Featured image: Netflix

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