The Importance Of 13 Reasons Why

For as long as I can remember, compassion has never been considered as cool. Growing up, I always felt a sense of arrogance radiating off of my peers and the older I get, the more I see it growing into an even bigger monster. Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

I used to chalk it up to being sensitive but now that I’m older, a bigger issue comes to mind and one that the folks over at Netflix – along with original author Jay Asher – addresses in the new binge-worthy series, 13 Reasons Why: the way we treat each other needs to change.

If you haven’t already binged on the series, 13 Reasons Why is the story of Hannah Baker, or rather why she committed suicide at the age of 17. The story follows friend, Clay Jensen as he listens to tapes recorded by Hannah explaining the 13 reasons why she killed herself – all 13 reasons tied to people who ultimately drove her to make her decision. But that’s just it though: it all boils down to our decisions. We all make them yet we never think twice about how our actions affect others. When tragedy strikes, nobody wants to accept the fact that their shady behavior can contribute to another person’s pain. The notion of the other person just wanting attention is the most popular excuse for those who are unable to face the consequences of their actions. It is not attention they seek, but to be treated as a human being with respect.

The further I dived into the series, I started to feel a lump in my throat as I was reminded of what my high school days were like. I found myself tied to Hannah’s story and her pain as if it were my own. I, too, often thought of suicide as being my only option back then as I felt misunderstood and like a nuisance to the lives of everyone around me. I distinctly remember being at my lowest and watching the people I thought were my friends laughing at me while inside I was screaming for help. Like Hannah, it was one thing piled onto another and the heavier the weight on my chest got, the more I knew I couldn’t handle life anymore. People started attacking me on my character. I clearly needed a friend but instead, people resorted to calling me dramatic, making me believe that sad girls don’t deserve to feel human. I needed someone to listen, not a lecture.

High school is hard enough without the nastiness of people who you assume are your friends dragging you down when you need them the most. Everyone tends to pass judgement on people they don’t even know and the more that people hide behind their friends & the masks they construct, the harder it is to see who our peers really are. The saddest part is that even at almost 29, I feel like nothing has changed. Everyone’s still hiding. Everyone acts exactly like their peers. It’s disheartening and it needs to change.

I wish 13 Reasons Why existed when I was in high school so there could have been an open dialogue on depression and anxiety. Instead of making kids feel like there is something wrong with them, there needs to be a conversation along the lines of what is wrong with our society and how we treat people. There are kids out there who are going through what these characters went through with no idea how to reach out, or rather, they have reached out but felt like they were overreacting or told to quit being so dramatic. They think they’re alone in all of this. The fact of the matter is, some of the signs of suicide are right in front of us but people tend to look the other way because it makes them uncomfortable. But what happens when these kids do take their lives because they felt unimportant and unwelcome their entire lives?

The way we treat others can be viewed as a ripple effect that can go both ways. In Hannah’s case, constant bullying, indifference and lack of compassion can lead to the worst case scenario while the simplest forms of love and friendship can change everything and possibly save a life – something you’ll see Clay deeply struggle with. I long for the day when kids can go to school feeling safe and cared for instead of feeling like a punching bag. I long for the day when we can all coexist in the same society despite our differences. It all starts with a choice; a choice that exudes confidence and accountability for your actions. Which choice will you make?

*If you’re in need of help, find more info here. Don’t go it alone.