As of April 2017, the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why broke a new record: it saw more social media volume than any other Netflix original series. During it’s first week alone there were over 3.5 MILLION tweets including its title (not to mention Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr etc)! The show was produced by Selena Gomez, who is no stranger to mental health topics. In an interview from June 2017, Gomez responds to questions about the dark comment by saying “Whether or not you wanted to see it, that’s what’s happening. The content is complicated. It’s dark and it has moments that are honestly very hard to swallow, and I understood that we were doing something that is difficult. But these kids today are so exposed to things that I would never even comprehend when I was 8.”
As a therapist, I can completely agree with what she is saying. I hear a lot of parents holding tight to their “not my child” or “not at my kid’s school” mentality…and I talk to enough middle and high schoolers to tell you YES, your kid is exposed to these topics and YES, it happens at your kid’s school (as well as on-line, via texting, on television and at sleepovers).
The thing I liked the most about 13 Reasons Why was that it exposed the sexualized cultures and chronic sexual harassment that young girls have come to expect in middle and high schools around the country. It seems to be starting younger and younger too…I have 5th and 6th graders regularly discuss the frequency of sexualized talk, jokes, and requests.
The thing I liked least about the show however, was the ease with which the main character killed herself and the graphic nature in which it was shown. No human being needs exposed to those types of graphic images in any context. It is unnecessary violence that further perpetuates our culture’s desensitization. I further dislike that the image is one more thing for people who are depressed and considering suicide to struggle with thinking obsessively about. They are already fighting so hard to block their own intrusive thoughts and images, I do not believe this horrific scene was necessary in order to get the show’s message across.
In response to 13 Reasons Why, our practice chose to ask our clients why they choose life. We asked them to write anonymously on post-it notes and put their answers on display in our lobbies on our (More than) 13 Reason’s Why Not posters. What we found was interesting. It seems that the majority of our answers fell into five categories: Food, Loved Ones, Spirituality, Responsibility, and Hope.
The beauty of this is that we can draw a conclusion that if you continue to work on these categories in your life, then you will decrease your risk of suicidal thoughts and gestures. If you are struggling with finding reasons to live, I strongly suggest that you reach out to a therapist for guidance. Therapy is a collaborative experience in which the therapist will work with you to explore your values and help you set goals to achieve your life worth living. To get connected with a provider, please feel free to contact us at Mindfully. We’d love to help.