As we close out Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ve finally managed to put into words a project I started over a month ago. I had started an article to see if the popular Netflix series 13 Reasons Why was safe enough for people who struggle with mental health could watch.
I have been battling with multiple mental illnesses for over a decade and was concerned with watching the show myself. After getting tons of responses for interviews, the article turned into something so much more.
I talked to many people with different places of origin, occupations, and age to see what they thought of the series and how the subject matter has affected their own lives. I listened to so many amazingly strong, devastatingly powerful stories that I felt chopping all of them into one single article wouldn’t do them the justice they all so greatly deserve.
Not everyone I talked to was able to actually watch the series though. Francesca, 19 who suffers from depression and anxiety had quite a few concerns based on the premise of the show and what message it might send to someone contemplating suicide.
“I don’t think I’ll ever watch the show but who knows? Maybe one day, 5 years from now I’ll feel secure enough to watch it. But for right now, I don’t think the show will be good for me.”
After having a conversation, I realized our concerns were very similar. The battles we fight individually with mental illness is constantly evolving, and some days the battles are harder to win so the idea of subjecting yourself to such content during a difficult period could potentially lead to a setback.
Despite the difference of opinions, almost everyone I spoke with agreed that at the very least the show opened up the floor to very important conversations about mental health and sexual assault. Anonymous, 18 who said finishing the series left her feeling emotional drained and frightened by seeing herself in the same place as Hannah once before.
“13 Reasons Why tackled many different topics that people often dismiss or ignore in a way never seen before. It opened up a nationwide conversation about those things. It’s important to talk about bullying. It’s important to talk about rape culture and sexual assault. It’s important to talk about the mental health of teenagers. I have experienced bully, sexual assault, and suicidal thoughts. Too often the problems of young people aren’t taken seriously, and this show highlights how serious they can be.”
The main reason I wanted to make this article into a series is because of how personal the stories got during the interviewing process. I know my own struggles with my illnesses have many painful stories to accompany the many years of battling and I know how hard it is for someone to open up about such excruciating memories.
I wanted to give those brave enough to share a place to be heard because when it comes to sexual assault and mental illness, being heard without stigma is a challenge. Marcella, 28 recalled a recent failure in justice for a friend who was sexually assaulted and couldn’t help but feel overwhelmingly robbed of justice for those in the show who had to go through the same thing.
“Two weeks ago, an acquaintance of mine met up with a guy from a dating app, and he drugged and raped her. When she went the police, they just said she needed to learn her lesson. My advice would be to be careful of who you hang out with and don’t let anyone buy you drinks.”
Over the next couple weeks, there will be 13 featured interviews starting this week and continuing to post every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the entire month of June. Each person I talked to expresses their thoughts and opinions on both the show itself and their own personal experiences with mental illness and sexual assault.
You should expect heavy spoilers in these articles so if you haven’t watched and don’t want to be spoiled, you should skip this series until after you finished the show. I would love to hear what other viewers thought of the series, all I ask is that you show respect to those who took the time to tell me such personal journeys.