13 Reasons Why: A NHS Guidance Counselor’s Perspective

By Emma Patz, Entertainment Editor

When the 13-episode series titled 13 Reasons Why was released on Netflix in March, shockwaves rippled throughout the internet. The premise is about a high schooler named Hannah Baker, who, prior to committing suicide, releases tapes to the people whom she blames for her demise, explaining to them how they contributed to her death. The show, which depicts graphic sexual assault and suicide, is mainly viewed by impressionable teenagers.While the creators of the series argue that the reasoning behind the graphicness is because We wanted to tell that story truthfully. And as difficult as it is to watch, it should be difficult to watch” (13 Reasons Why Creators Are Standing Behind Its Graphic Depiction of Teen Suicide, 4/20/17), many members of the mental healthy community are outraged.

In a discussion with Needham High School guidance counselor Mr. Ash, he voices his issues with the show. Mr. Ash begins, “something that concerns me is that it seems like she (Hannah Baker) is getting some element of satisfaction (from the tapes) when in reality she is dead. Any indication that suicide is an appropriate way to deal with issues is concerning”. Next, he addresses the final episode where Hannah approaches a guidance counselor for help and gets turned away, exclaiming that that is a “complete fabrication of what ultimately would happen”. Alex Moen, a high school counselor in Minneapolis expands on this sentiment, stating, “[School counselors] are mandated reporters, meaning that if we learn that someone has been harmed or may be harmed, we have a duty by law to report it” (13 Reasons Why’s Controversial Depiction of Teen Suicide Has School Counselors Picking Up the Pieces, May 1 2017).

To the chagrin of many, it was revealed in May that there will be a season two of Thirteen Reasons Why. Although season one proved to be wildly popular, Mr. Ash suggests to the writers of season two, to “listen to the critics from the mental health community, and take their suggestions”. However, it seems unlikely this advice will be put into practice. In fact, before the release of the series, suicide expert Dan Reidenberg was contacted to receive his opinion on the show. When he requested that it not be released to to its’ potential detrimental effects, his suggestion was blatantly ignored (’13 Reasons Why’ is a hit, but suicide expert told Netflix not to release series, April 26 2017). So, what should high schoolers do if they are facing depression, or suicidal thoughts? When Mr. Ash is asked about this, he responds, without hesitation, “The most important thing is to not try to handle it by themselves- to approach people whom they can talk to or trust, whether that is a friend or a trusted adult or a coach or somebody who would hopefully have a proper response in turn”. Moreover, while 13 Reasons Why may be entertaining to watch, Hannah’s story is no way an accurate depiction of the situation that the show is attempting to portray. It is crucial to view with caution, and most vitally, ask for help if you need it.

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