Thirteen Reasons Why continues to permeate the media and conversations daily. In processing the events of the show with clients, I have found similar thoughts and opinions among teens who are currently suffering or have suffered from depression and suicidal thoughts. One client wrote a response. The following is the perspective of a 17-year-old:
As a high school student with depression and suicidal ideations that were nearly unending, Thirteen Reasons Why, as both a novel and a show, has a special connection to my story. The show provides a very rare and important insight into the mind of someone wrestling with the idea of taking his or her own life. In the show, Hannah Baker’s audiotapes are not intended as revenge, but are rather forms of suicide notes that should be taken as lessons that teach people that their actions have strong and lasting impressions on others rather than be made into a debate over the glorification of killing one’s self. Death is not a quick decision. It is not spontaneous. It is not a search for attention. It is well thought out, and more often than not it is seen as the only way out. Most don’t know that feeling, but I do. What the show did not reveal to its audience is the sleepless nights that Hannah spent arguing with herself whether or not her life was worth it. It did not show the moments when she wanted to crawl out of her own skin because her own mind was suffocating her. It did not show the way every meticulous detail was thought out or how many different plans raced through Hannah Baker’s head as she contemplated what her final moments would look like. And it should’ve. However, it didn’t. But, that doesn’t mean it should be criticized. Thirteen Reasons Why should be used as what it is, a platform. It is a platform to talk about something people refuse to talk about. Suicide is real and it is raging. Keeping silent only allows it to grow stronger faster.
In light of this platform, there are some things the world needs to know. For me, the contemplations of suicide were not caused by the actions of others. My own mind was destroying me. So, please do not call actions like these a cry for attention. If Hannah wanted attention she would’ve gotten it some other way. After all, no one can feel attention when they’re dead, so what’s the point? Also, if it were a cry for attention she would’ve run around threatening her suicide, but instead she kept it quiet until the audiotapes went out. Suicide isn’t something to brag about. For three years, nobody else knew what I was going through. For three years, everything I saw I imagined how to end my life with it, but I never told a soul. There is something terrible in depression that makes you feel like a worthless burden, so rather than crying for attention people like me in that situation would rather suffer alone and kill themselves than create even more of a burden on others and make the lies they have been telling themselves true. I was lucky. I had a support system that kept me alive, but Hannah didn’t. There are signs. There are always signs no matter how good someone is at hiding it. So, if you know or suspect that someone you care for is in that mindset do not interrogate, don’t belittle, and don’t accuse. Please, as a matter of life and death, just be there and be there quietly.There is no easy answer, no easy cure. For me, many days it was an accomplishment to get out of bed. I spent countless weekends not moving from my mattress, and I kept the lights off the entire time. Everything was painful, and I eventually started to get physically sick from it. I remember one day at a school assembly my skin started to crawl, I could no longer breathe, and it felt as if every set of eyes was looking at me, and every whisper was telling me to die. My mind was screaming die, die, DIE! Why? What triggered it? Nothing. My mind just doesn’t work the way everyone else’s does. Hannah is the same. Her mind doesn’t work the way yours does, just like you don’t think the same as your spouse, parents, or children. So, instead of criticizing it because you don’t understand it, and instead of denying it because it is uncomfortable to talk about, try to imagine living just a single day where everything is coated with a fog of burning pain, in which your mind is literally killing you from the inside out, devouring you until you are a shell, a walking, talking skeleton. That’s what it feels like. If for one second you try to imagine it, all your wild accusations of suicidal glorification would dissipate in seconds.
The client shared this to help people understand what thoughts of suicide feel like. If there is one thing to learn from the show, it is that “perception is reality.” Take the time to be aware of those around you. We are not able to control the thoughts and actions of others, but we can control our own. Sometimes our response can make a difference.