A Response from the Staff
Edmond Family Counseling
13 Reasons Why, a book by Jay Asher, has recently been adapted by Netflix into a series, narrated by the now deceased character, Hannah Baker. Hannah has committed suicide. She places blame, in large part, on the horrific events involving 13 individuals who undeniably bullied, abused, stalked, and assaulted her during her first year at a new high school. Both the book and the series are popular and many parents are concerned that suicide is presented as justifiable; even glamorous. In a world where teens are obsessed with seeking attention of any sort, the concern is understandable. Recently, Edmond Family Counseling was asked to respond to the series, “13 Reasons Why”, and recommend whether teens should watch. We’ve compiled the responses here.
Audrey Woods, Staff Therapist
In order to effectively educate young people, forums in which young people are already present are among the best ways to begin, making television and social media prime avenues to start the conversation. However, this beginning must be extended into meaningful and informative interactions between young people and their caregivers. Often, there is a misperception that extensive conversation or education regarding sensitive topics will invite higher rates of occurrence whereas the opposite is true. It helps to keep young people safe and informed. Take these opportunities to ensure the people in your life have accurate information by starting what should be an ongoing conversation.
Chad McCoy, LPC
Suicide is an infinitely complex process. As we have a responsibility to each person to treat others with dignity, respect, and general pleasantness, each individual has a duty to themselves to safeguard their future by being a proactive agent in their lives. Hannah Baker took her own life. There were multiple times through this series that I wished she had acted differently; wished she had the foresight to understand the outcomes to some of her decisions or the strength to reach out and ask others for help before it became too late. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for a best-selling book or TV series.
Quinton Ellis, LPC
A real “slice of life” story. Sorry, that was a poor, but absolutely deliberate choice of words. While technically well-done, and expertly acted, there is ultimately nothing redeeming about this project. Obviously, the show wants us all to be more empathetic toward one another. But it wants more than that. The show strongly encourages all of us to be psychic as well – as nothing else would’ve saved this girl. Put simply, and in its own language, the show is its own “unhelpful Yoda”. There is no symptom or social ill “13” wishes to treat for which the show doesn’t prescribe us an overdose. A client explained to me something that I cannot now un-know about the folks who made this emotional black hole. She was a fan of the book, which she thought was more personal and moving than the TV version. In the book, Hannah takes pills. In the show, these sadists pointlessly force you to watch every horrid wretched instant of Hannah carving open her forearms with a razorblade. They chose to make a “snuff” film. Just have your kids watch “Friday Night Lights” instead, m’kay?
John Goetz, LPC
For full disclosure, I have not read the book or watched the Netflix production of “13 Reasons Why” so I will keep my comments to what I know. First, suicide is a tragedy that is often but not always preventable. One way to conceptualize it is in three parts; feelings of helplessness, followed by feelings of hopelessness, and then feelings of despair. I would like to add another element that is often present with thoughts of suicide; thoughts of homicide. Who did you want to kill before you thought of killing yourself? This might be applicable to Hannah’s story and a point for parents to discuss with their children. Violence against others is never acceptable. Suicide is most effectively dealt with by asking the person you are concerned about the question, “Are you thinking about suicide, of killing yourself?” Then by carefully listening to them, just listening with no judgment, no opinion, and then offering to help them find help. Edmond Family Counseling is one of the many community resources you can call to receive help in this situation. Check out the BeEdmond mobile web app, for phones, tablets, and desktops for instant access to more resources in the area. Edmond Family Counseling is available 24 hours a day to assist with any mental health emergency. 405-341-3554 or http://www.edmondfamily.org.