Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has quickly become a landmark TV series for its unflinching portrayal of high school life and the effects of issues like sexual assault and bullying on young people today. Since its debut, the cast members have been wearing cobalt blue polish in honor of the show’s main character, Hannah, or getting semicolon tattoos together to symbolize the importance of mental health awareness and seeking help when you need it.
The show begins after Hannah dies by suicide, as her friends and classmates piece together a series of recordings on tape with a set of specific instructions. Episode 13 culminates in a fairly graphic scene, and while viewers are given a warning before the episode begins, the scene is definitely shocking and concerning to some viewers. Why would the team behind 13 Reasons Why decide to include Hannah’s death in such uncomfortable detail?
Jay Asher, who wrote the book on which 13 Reasons is based, said that the team wanted to depict Hannah’s death in detail to “show it as horrific as it actually is.” Asher told Entertainment Weekly that they gave a lot of thought to the scene. “The way she does it, you can’t watch it and feel like it’s glamorized in any way,” he explained. “It looks and is painful, and then when she’s found by her parents, it absolutely destroys them.”
Entertainment Weekly also talked to Dr. Christine Moutier, the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention’s chief medical officer, about the scene. While Dr. Moutier hasn’t seen the show, she stresses the importance of raising awareness about suicide, as well as the importance of speaking up, talking to someone you trust, and listening. “We believe strongly that the issue of suicide is really important to raise the volume on,” she told EW. “It’s not that portrayals are all bad — it’s the way that it’s done and that it needs to be with a prevention message and a message of hope, something that can inspire others to work through life’s struggles whether they’re way upstream from actually being in a crisis or even when it’s at the moment of suicidal crisis.”
There’s a possibility that the series may continue on after season 1, which means it’s very likely that the show will continue to shed light on mental health awareness, and hopefully in a proactive way that emphasizes discussing mental health.
If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
This story originally appeared on Teen Vogue.
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