What We Wish They Knew: 13 Reasons Why

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13 Reasons Why (stylized onscreen as Th1rteen R3asons Why) is an American drama-mystery web television series based on the 2007 novel Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher and adapted by Brian Yorkey for Netflix. The series revolves around a high school student, Clay Jensen, and his friend Hannah Baker, a girl who committed suicide after suffering a series of demoralizing circumstances brought on by select individuals at her school. A box of cassette tapes recorded by Hannah before her suicide details thirteen reasons why she ended her life.

While the TV series indeed serves as a "conversation starter" concerning mental illness and suicide, there is concern for whether it lays the groundwork for a productive conversation. There are many troubling elements of the TV series, including its failure to demonstrate the availability of adequate, evidence-based mental healthcare and counseling. According to the NIMH, suicide is the second leading cause of death for 15-34 year-olds and the third leading cause of death for people aged 10-14.[1] The NIMH also estimates that 20% of children will develop a mental health disorder in their lifetime, affecting 17.1 million children. Suicide and mental health disorders are significant risks to adolescents, many of whom have watched the 13 Reasons Why series. Thus, it is critical that resources be provided in order to better educate audiences about the themes in this series and address the negatively framed depiction of mental health treatment in the series.

If you click on one of the themes below, you can find a list of resources related to the topic. An in-depth look at the themes in each episode in the sections that follow.

Themes Key Resources
Suicide
Sexual assault National Sexual Assault Hotline

National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline

  • Call 1-866-331-9474 or Text loveis to 22522 or Online Chat
Bullying

How to Access Mental Health Care and Treatment[edit]

How to get help now[edit]

Hopeline, hotlines

Ted talk link https://www.ted.com/talks/kevin_breel_confessions_of_a_depressed_comic

 Episode Breakdown[edit]

Episode 1: Tape 1, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode

  • Dealing with loss/grief
    • The show opens with Clay dealing with Hannah's suicide
  • Sexual assault (sexting without consent)
    • Justin takes a picture of Hannah without her knowing and it gets spread across the school
Dealing with a loss from suicide

Grieving from the loss of a loved one or acquaintance due to suicide can be overwhelming and cause feelings of guilt, anger, or confusion. The resources below from the Mayo Clinic details how to deal with emotions that can surface due to the event as well as healthy coping strategies.

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/end-of-life/in-depth/suicide/art-20044900?pg=1

This resource from Harvard also addresses similar coping strategies and suggests as well as how to seek support from others and how to help a friend who might be struggling with a loss due to suicide.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/suicide-survivors-face-grief-questions-challenges-201408127342

Dealing with cyberbullying

The resource below shares some ways to cope with and overcome cyberbullying.

Spreading compromising pictures is harmful. The resource below has ideas for how teens and parents can help individuals struggling with the effects of cyberbullying and how to prevent it.

Episode 2: Tape 1, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode

  • Loneliness/isolation
    • Hannah's two new friends Alex and Jessica who have been a source of support for her stop hanging out with her and the two start dating
  • Bullying
    • Alex makes a "hot list" to get back at Jessica for breaking up with him, but Hannah gets labeled as "best ass" and Jessica with "worst ass" leading to unwanted attention to Hannah and friendship tension
  • Peer relations
    • The "hot list" causes Jessica to blame Hannah for Alex breaking up with her and accuse her of seducing Alex behind her back
  • Physical violence
  • Romantic relationships (healthy, unhealthy)
  • Drug use/misuse and truancy
    • Justin deals with his anxiety over the tapes by missing school and smoking pot at Bryce's house
Dealing with feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression 

Feelings of loneliness and isolation are a normal part of the human experience,

Healthy strategies for dealing with bullying and how to confront a bully 
What do healthy and unhealthy relationships look like?
How to recognize that substance use has become a problem

Episode 3: Tape 2, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode

  • Parent dealing with child's suicide
    • Mrs. Baker is trying to understand what led Hannah to commit suicide
  • Lawsuits involving mental health
    • Mrs. Baker is suing the school about Hannah's suicide
  • Guilt
    • Alex feels guilty about the role he played in Hannah's suicide
  • Peer relations (healthy, unhealthy) and peer pressure
    • Bryce makes Alex and Clay engage in a drinking contest
  • Bullying
    • Hannah explains how being put on the "hot list" affect how other students treated her and comments on the objectification of women
    • Bryce makes unwanted sexual advances to Hannah in the convenience store
  • Fitting in
    • Alex has mixed feelings about trying to hang out with the "cool" crowd at the school
  • Child/parent relationships
  • Physical violence
  • Deception
  • Substance use/misuse
    • Bryce is purchasing alcohol underage
  • School connectedness
Dealing with the loss of a loved one and how to process grief
Dealing with guilt related to suicide
How to deal with unwanted sexual attention
How to deal with peer pressure

Episode 4: Tape 2, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

  • Stalking
    • Hannah deals with Tyler's extensive stalking
  • Suicide
    • The Bakers deal with their role in the community and interactions with others after the loss of their daughter
    • Mr. Baker is plagued by what he could have done to prevent his daughter's suicide
  • Alienation
    • After the photo of Courtney and Hannah emerges, Courtney stops hanging out with Hannah and tells her she can't be seen with her
  • Bullying/revenge
    • In response to Hannah refusing to go out with him, Tyler sends around the picture he took of Courtney and Hannah
    • Clay sends around a nude picture of Tyler in attempts to get revenge for what he did to Hannah
  • Teenage substance use
  • Peer pressure/peer rejection
How to deal with stalking
Suicide prevention: how to recognize individuals at risk for suicide and how to help
Dealing with loss of friendships and how to make new friends

Episode 5: Tape 3, Side A:[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

  • Rumors and gossiping
    • Courtney starts rumors about Hannah in order to take attention away from their photo together
  • Sexual identity
    • Courtney tries to explain to Clay why she feels uncomfortable coming out
  • Bullying
    • The guys throw Clay into their car and try to get him to say what he's planning and drive 120 mph to try get get him to talk
  • Substance use
    • Hannah helps Jessica who gets too drunk at the Winter Formal
Dealing with rumors and harmful gossiping 
Dealing with the pressure of disclosing sexual identity 

Episode 6: Tape 3, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

  • Dating hardships
    • Hannah deals with a no-show Valentine's date
  • Sexual assault
    • Marcus assaults Hannah while on a Valentine's date, he says he thought she would be "easy"
  • Violence
    • Alex gets into a physical fight with another student
    • School system’s primarily concern is liability over bullying not helping the students
  • Impulsivity
    • Alex is upset about how he wasn't punished for the fight
  • Parent-child issues
    • Justin is dealing with his mother's boyfriend
Healthy and unhealthy dating and relationships

-The Date Safe Project (https://www.datesafeproject.org/)

Adolescents and parents: how to deal with school violence 
How to deal with feelings of impulsivity and acting out
Dealing with unhealthy parent-child relationships

Episode 7: Tape 4, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

  • Isolation/depression and suicidal ideation
    • Hannah is dealing with more feelings of loneliness and isolation
    • She said in an anonymous letter that she wants to end it all
  • Bullying/Revenge
    • Zach gets revenge on Hannah by taking her compliments from her bag in class
    • Hannah tries to confront Zach, but he throws her letter on the ground
    • Clay scratches Zach's car
  • The effect suicide has on those left behind
    • Clay’s hallucinations
  • Emotional fragility
    • The impact the notes have on Hannah and how she feels when she is no longer receiving them
  • Ignorance
    • Zach ignores Hannah’s note to him
    • The teacher has no idea what is going on in her own classroom
    • The teacher did not think through the effect that writing anonymous notes could have on her students
    • Possible that Clay knows Hannah is distressed in class by the notes, but he does not take action
How to help someone dealing with depression/isolation and warning signs
How teachers and adults can respond to adolescents reaching out

Episode 8: Tape 4, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode

  • School and after-graduation pressure
    • Hannah is trying to figure out based on her grades what she wants to do after college
  • Selfishness
    • Ryan’s act of exposing Hannah’s poem to the entire school, most likely because he wants his publication to have more attention
  • Ignorance
    • Clay once again ignores Hannah’s emotions. He even makes a comment about the author being a really dark person, but does nothing about it.
    • Tony ignored Hannah the night of her death when she dropped a package off at his house because he figured she was just being dramatic.
    • Hannah’s poem clearly shows someone distressed and hopeless, but no one in the school takes any action.
  • Judgement
    • Hannah is judgmental of the poetry club at first
    • Ryan expresses his struggles about being judged for his demeanor/sexuality
  • Immaturity
    • Instead of reading Hannah’s poem for its deeper meaning, her peers make fun of the images and words in it
    • The teacher reads the poem in front of the entire class without considering if the author is present or how they would feel.
  • Blame/compensation
    • Tony feels that he has to make up for the fact that he didn’t stop Hannah the night of her death, which is the reason why he is so adamant about making sure the tapes circulate
    • Clay continues to be on edge because he has not heard his tape yet. He is anticipating the guilt he will feel.  
How to deal with school pressure

Episode 9: Tape 5, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode

  • Teenage alcohol use
  • Acting out
    • Jessica drinks alcohol at school
  • Sexual assault
    • Jessica is drunk and sexually assaulted by Bryce
    • Jessica remembers in this episode what really happened and realizes that Justin has lied about what happened
  • Trauma
    • Hannah is seen in the closet witnessing Jessica’s sexual assault but is also drunk and petrified, unable to react
  • Peer pressure
    • Justin is peer pressured by Bryce to move away from the door and is seen extremely upset
    • Hannah is convinced to go to the party even though she was wary of going
  • Parent-child relationship
    • Clay’s mom seeks to understand why he is acting out
  • Marital discord
    • Hannah’s parents hardly notice her as they are fighting about financing their drug store
  • Isolation/depression
    • Hannah is discouraged that she is not able to “restart” with a new school year as much as she hoped she could
    • Hannah cuts her hair short, possibly in an attempt to start over
  • Blame
    • Clay continues to feel guilty and tries to act out to avenge Hannah in some way
How to deal with the trauma associated with sexual assault and how to report the assault 
How to deal with fighting parents 

Episode 10: Tape 5, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

  • traumatic experiences (car accident)
  • drunk driving
  • reporting rape
  • death of friends
  • drug abuse
  • bullying
  • loss of friendship
  • unhealthy friendships
  • blame

Resources relating to this episode[edit]

Episode 11: Tape 6, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

Themes: Sexual assault, interpersonal effectiveness (e.g., not clearly communicating wants or needs due to sexual trauma), deception, collateral damage of suicide, communication failure, teen sex, disgust, shame, depression, guilt, anxiety, misplaced blame/anger, bereavement/grief

Adolescent relationships
Dealing with emotional abuse by a parent

Resources relating to this episode[edit]

  • Suicide:National Suicide Hotline, Crisis Textline, National Suicide Prevention Chat
  • Sexual Assault: National Sexual Assault Hotline
  • Bullying: Cyberbully hotline (cyberbullying.org)
  • Grief: It Gets Better Project: http://www.itgetsbetter.org/
  • Drug use: SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP

Episode 12: Tape 6, Side B[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

Themes: sexual assault/trauma, physical assault, substance use/misuse, anger management, emotional regulation (or lack thereof), deception/lying, depression, communication failure, gun violence, access to lethal means, legal obligations

Dealing with rape- victim or of a friend
Dealing with parental abuse

Resources relating to this episode[edit]

  • IPV, sexual assault: National Teen Dating Abuse Online Helpline (http://www.loveisrespect.org/) call (1-866-331-9474) or Text loveis to 22522, National Domestic Violence Hotline (http://www.thehotline.org/) call (1-800-799-7233) or chat online.
  • Drug use: SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP
  • Suicide:National Suicide Hotline, Crisis Textline, National Suicide Prevention Chat
  • Violence/ Access to Lethal Means:                                                
    • Violence prevention works: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/index.page
    • Contact Health Department
    • Contact Sheriff’s Department

Episode 13: Tape 7, Side A[edit]

Themes of the episode[edit]

Themes: Ethical violations, disclosure, suicide, rapport, sexual trauma, self harm (e.g., cutting), access to lethal means, school violence, suicidal ideation, peer relations (healthy, unhealthy), suicide attempts, guilt, communication with parents, social support, confrontation, legal obligations

Dealing with an unhelpful counselor
Finding a good therapist
Moving on after the loss of a friend

Resources relating to this episode[edit]

  • Suicide: National Suicide Hotline, Crisis Text Line
  • Sexual Assault: National Sexual Assault Hotline   
  • Violence/ Access to Lethal Means:                                                
    • Violence prevention works: http://www.violencepreventionworks.org/public/index.page
    • Contact Health Department
    • Contact Sheriff’s Department
  • Substance use/misuse: SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP
  • "NIMH » Suicide". www.nimh.nih.gov. Retrieved 2017-11-02.