A teenage girl uttered,“Welcome to your tape,” as I sat in my bed binge-watching Netflix’s new series “13 Reasons Why.”
Based on the book by Jay Asher that millions of millennials read in middle school, the Netflix series explores the suicide of high school student Hannah Baker, who leaves behind 13 cassette tapes dedicated to 13 people in her life, explaining why she killed herself.
The series is effective in starting conversations on topics we need to discuss more. Hannah’s struggles are relatable to a wide audience, and even if one does not connect with her experiences directly, she gives the viewer an opportunity to understand her situation. She loses friends, becomes the subject of rumors, gets bullied, and is eventually raped by a male student who also raped her former best friend.
There is a lot we can learn from Hannah Baker as students — most importantly, that we can all treat each other better. The people who were on those tapes were not responsible for her death, and it would be unhealthy to focus on every little detail of the situation. The best they can do is learn from the tragedy they witnessed and try to be more respectful and considerate to others in the future. The message of this show rings true for any college or high school student — we must be appreciative of the people in our lives because we never know when we might be seeing someone for the last time.
This series has caused controversy because of its portrayal of suicide. The producers of “13 Reasons Why” made the bold choice to show Hannah’s suicide on screen. In the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s guidelines on reporting on suicide, it is advised that the media avoids sensationalizing suicide. Also, some viewers claim that Hannah’s reasons for killing herself make it seem as if the peers she addressed in her tapes were responsible for her death. However, the reality is that committing suicide was her choice — a decision that came from a build-up of emotions about multiple life events that impacted her negatively. To say that Hannah’s family and friends should have done more and that they missed the signs would be a gross misunderstanding of mental illness, and I hope that is not what individuals take away from “13 Reasons Why.”
I wish that by viewing this series, students will take away that we can all benefit from treating each other better, and recognize that it’s important to respect each other and speak out when we know something is wrong. Anxiety affects about 3.3 million Americans, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Even though this is a reality for so many people, my own struggles with anxiety have made it easy to feel isolated and lonely. This is why it is important to speak up and recognize that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of.
— Gianluca D’Elia
Junior journalism major
Printed in the 4/26/17 issue.