*Disclaimer: This post contains references to depression, bullying, sexual abuse and suicide.
If you have Netflix you’ve probably seen the series 13 Reasons Why trending or you might have even watched it. Due to the sensitive content of the program which follows Clay Jensen as he discovers why teenage Hannah Baker committed suicide, there’s growing controversy whether the program will actually encourage more suicides in young people from watching it rather than educating and discouraging suicide.
I am the Editor of the Student Minds Blog, which is the largest mental health charity for students in the U.K. I have suffered from depression, anxiety and experienced some aspects Hannah goes through in the program. Being quite open about mental health has been a challenge for me over the years, primarily as there is a lot stigma around it. With my role as Editor of the blog I want to encourage people to share their personal experiences and to know that they’re not alone. With one in four people experiencing a mental health problem throughout their life, why isn’t it discussed more? And surely if it was, more people will seek help for what they are experiencing.
Hannah experiences rumours, sexual abuse and social isolation in the 13 part series. Some of the scenes I felt were truly heartbreaking and yes, I did cry. During my time in school I experienced falsified rumours which at the time were upsetting, but don’t effect me now and if they happened today I think I’d be stronger as an individual to shrug them off. However, as a teenager we are often uncertain of ourselves and I was a shy individual. Whilst at University I had female bullying from catty individuals I lived with and had suffered from social exclusion, behaviours which I honestly thought would have died out as I’ve gotten older.
Even in the last few years a boy who I’d never really spoken to at school undermined my engagement announcement on Facebook with a mock version to him. I had left school three years before this incident, showing that the bullying mentality towards those who we know in the background is still very much alive after school. The incident made my engagement announcement stressful and people thought the real one was a joke as the second fake one came out. Things which might seem funny and petty to some, might have a profound effect on the victim. After all you don’t know what’s going on someone’s life at any given point. A silly joke or rumour could effect the person’s mental wellbeing.
Over the years I’ve had issues on Facebook finding the false friend ideal, creates more and more insecurity in myself and what I post. Last year I must have had around 400 friends, one night I culled it to around 100 which was freeing. I removed people I wouldn’t say hello to in the street as I’ve heard it time and time again that people use Facebook to “stalk” others.
13 Reasons Why is upsetting at points and does not take the situation lightly which I honestly find today’s society does with young suicide. Throughout my time at university I have heard the hushed whispers of the suicides of students who were “quiet” and “kind” but their stories only make a whisper. There is no memorial, not even a single glimmer of grief from the university community. However, I strongly believe we must grieve together. As I write this I hold back my tears of sadness and frustration. Suicide is not just the end of life there was a root, to which society ignores. They ignore the illness as well as the person, concentrating more about covering up the incident.
My university led me believe they had set up 24/7 helpline for mental health, I googled it to be sure as I always do with each post and I found out I was told wrong. This made me angry as there is even less the university is doing to help those in crisis or who just need help. A few years ago, as a student with poor mental health, I reached out to my university who gave answers similar to what Hannah received, to just sort of get on with life. I went to the NHS who were worse than the university. You see being a student is like being in limbo, you’re not part of the community of the city you’re floating between home and an unstable university environment. My grades slipped, I withdrew from all aspects of “normal” university life and no one reached out. Luckily I had a very supportive boyfriend who helped me, although not everyone has someone close to them.
I think 13 Reasons Why should continue to be on Netflix, behaviours which individuals do towards Hannah might flag up in people’s minds and make them think twice about their actions towards others. No one is perfect and we all have done things that hurt others without intending to, I know I have and it pushes me to be better person. The program also highlights warning signs which are associated with those who are suicidal, even if the program helps one life it has been worthwhile. Just the conversation of mental wellbeing the program has generated will allow those to talk about it more openly. I wish when I experienced my poor mental health that there was more awareness, perhaps I wouldn’t have suffered poor grades and waited over a year to be seen by the NHS for therapy.
If you feel at all alone or are experiencing a hard time, please tell someone. It could be a friend, a family member or even a professional. It will get better.
If you are UK university student or graduate and would like to share your personal story with mental health on the Student Minds Blog, send a line to firstname.lastname@example.org letting the team know you are interested and we’ll send you over the guidelines.