Dear fellow adults, I have just finished watching 13 reasons why, and I recommend you do too.
It will make you uncomfortable.
It will make you cringe.
It might make you cry.
It will make you cover your eyes at one point, I guarantee it.
But you need to watch it.
Suicide is a leading cause of death for young men and women in this country, and across a lot of the world. It is a growing cause of concern for those not so young as well.
The series has been criticised for the graphic way in which it portrays suicide and sexual assault.
But you know what?
Suicide is graphic.
Sexual assault is graphic.
To look away, is to minimise what it is.
It isn’t pretty. You should be shocked. It is shocking.
What is even more shocking, is the prevalence with which this continues to be an issue in our society.
Every single woman I know can tell you a story of being treated like an object, of being marginalised, of receiving unwanted touch. Some are lucky enough to not have to carry a story of rape or assault with them, but we have all been made to feel intimidated, used, abused, violated at one point or another. This is just the fact of it all. And the fact that that is a fact, is shocking.
We live in a world where victims are blamed, where those who speak up for themselves or someone else, or just to ask for help, are often labelled as doing it ‘for attention’. A world where the jock is celebrated and the girl who someone told you the jock did something to is shamed.
In this world, how do you have ‘the conversation’?
How do you ask for help? Will someone say you are just looking for attention?
How do you tell someone you have been raped? Will you be blamed?
How do you tell someone that you have been bullied? When you feel you will be labelled a drama queen?
How do you tell someone that you feel like your life should be over?
How do you tell someone that you feel like a burden? Now let’s just think about that for a second – how counter-intuitive is that – to feel like a burden, how can you possibly tell someone that is how you feel, you are only burdening them more.
I know that is bullshit.
You know that is bullshit.
The kid balled up in the corner of his room wishing for it all to be over, he doesn’t know that.
Because no-one is talking about these kind of feelings. Yes we have gotten better, but we are still way off the mark with how much these issues need to be spoken about.
And that is why this show is so important.
Yes – it has its drawbacks.
Yes, young kids (or even adults) at risk should not watch it alone. I would say in general it isn’t a show to be watched alone, as it does come with some huge trigger warnings and very confronting stuff.
Yes it should have had more discussion about mental illness and how that is treatable and perhaps not made the adults in the show seem so incompetent, as a result perhaps removing them as a potential source of help from teenager’s watching this program.
But overall, this show will start a conversation. Because it is real. And that is what we need.
The finale, that scene – if you have watched it you know the one I am talking about – it nearly made me throw up. And now, two days later, I still flash back to it.
But you know what – the reason I am feeling sick isn’t the blood.
It is because this show is confronting, and it is confronting because it represents truth.
The truth of what is happening.
The truth of how rape actually looks, of how the people affected by assault look, how they are affected not just in the moment, but how it creeps into every facet of their being.
The truth of ‘that’ moment, the pain, the suffering.
We shy away from these realities every day – in television and movies we use the good old fade to black to imply what is happening without actually addressing it so often. In real life, it is spoken about in hushed tones if at all. In so many ways, we sweep it under the rug, uncomfortable with looking the monster in the eye.
How can we expect anyone to speak up and ask for help, when there are no real actual conversations being had. If we who aren’t suffering can’t talk about it like it actually exists, how can we expect someone who actually needs help to talk about it?
No wonder they feel like they can’t reach out.
We need conversations.
We need to remove the stigma.
So often, we shy away from looking monsters in the eye – assault, bullying, rape, suicide.
13 reasons why not only looks it in the eye, it stabs it in the eye with a rusty fork and plucks it out and shows it to all who will look.
Yes, it is ugly, shocking, confronting – so is assault, rape and suicide.
Yes this show has its drawbacks, but in my opinion, we need to bring this shitty reality into the light, and if that means doing so in a way that our society can’t ignore because it makes them uncomfortable, then so be it.
The only way to defeat the monster is to take away its power – and the way we do that is by talking about it, shining the light on it, exposing it for what it is.
Then talk about it, to everyone.
If you have kids (of appropriate age), watch it with them and talk to them about it.
Only by forcing these issues into the light in a real and honest way, can we expect to start having real and honest conversations, that just may well save a life.
And while I am here doling out demands, when you are reeling from that finale, watch the ‘Beyond the Reasons’ program after it.
You may be feeling angry, you may be feeling like this story has been exploited.
Damn well it has been, to shine that light.
Hannah was imperfect, we are all imperfect. No matter what our age, our situation, no one is good at asking for help at our best times, let alone our worst while in the grips of depression or other mental illness.
Because of this, it is all of our jobs, every single one of us, to be more aware of what is happening – not only in our schools, but around us in day to day life.
You may never know what someone is dealing with, but you can control what you do, you can reach out, you can fight against victim blaming, you can contribute to a narrative that will make anyone dealing with issues like these to speak up, and to seek help.
Yes I feel sick to the guts right now, and I have a really graphic image in my head. An ugly, despairing image.
And you know what? I am glad. Because if anything in this world is going to change, people need to FEEL, they need to be AFFECTED so they can do nothing but make a CHANGE. Only when people make changes in their world – even if that is in their own small circle – then nothing will ever change on a larger scale.
As Clay says at the end… it has to get better.
Lifeline 131 114
beyondblue 1300 224 636
SuicideLine 1300 651 251