Since the 13 episode Netflix series, that focuses on suicide and depression, came out; all I’ve seen online was articles analysing how the show doesn’t fully explore the complexity of depression and mental health, and I don’t understand why. It’s not supposed to be realistic or clinically correct.
Watching the few episodes that I watched, I couldn’t help but think to myself, ‘who records a whole load of tapes and doesn’t realise that they don’t want to die and they were just upset’ and I know, I know, some people can’t handle their emotions; and I more than understand that people have insecurities and worries and a lot of people decide to take their own lives every single day. But although I didn’t think that this series was the best representation of mental health, it does the job it’s supposed to.
All the criticism articles I have read say how unrealistic the show is when it comes to mental issues and problems. And I get that. But I think we should all agree that this show was aimed at young people, who ,like the main characters, do attend high school, where bullying is the norm, where relationships mean everything and your image matters not only to you but everyone around you. One gossip, and you are the subject of gossiping and bullying. They’re young, and they haven’t experienced more complex issues to think that a small rumour or a gossip is not the end of the world, because to them it means everything.
The series aims CLEARLY to make those young people realise their consequences of bullying, gossiping and spreading rumours. It makes them re-think their actions. Although the show isn’t clinically correct, and the story is too straight forward for a series that tries to explain what it feels like living with bullying and mental health, it is simplistic enough to show us how, although indirectly, we can all worsen someone’s state of mind.
A 13 year old, girl or boy, aren’t studying psychology. They’re watching a series which draws them in – and with its simplicity, it allows those teenagers to think about their actions twice, hopefully, before they say or do something.
The simplistic story line, focusing on how each one of those 13 individuals contributed to Hannah’s suicide, also shocks, not just the teenagers, but also me, personally, especially in the last episode, in which we can all see how Hannah took her life. The gruesome scene, the mother finding her, it’a all very disturbing. And that’s what the series is supposed to do. Leave a mark on the young viewers.
There are scenes that make the viewers see rape from the victims point of view, suicide from the victims point of view, but most importantly the guilt that bullies have to live with after they realise their actions have driven their peer to that point.
I saw articles criticising the suicide scene for how graphic it was. I disagree. Although the narrative is simplistic, it’s supposed to be gruesome to raise the awareness young people in the era of such advanced social media need. They’re desensitised to so many things that they see online, that a point could only be made through such open and realistic suicide scene.
Without the simplicity, the show wouldn’t make the point that it’s trying to make. If you want a show that focuses on how complex depression is, you’d have to go somewhere else.