The many reasons why we should stop judging 13 Reasons Why

by Digital Admin June 01, 2017

If you’re under 50 or the parent of a teenager you’ve most likely seen, heard or formed an opinion about Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why.

With more than 2.2 million Australian homes with Netflix subscriptions, the series – based upon the 2011 New York Times #1 bestselling book of the same name by author Jay Asher, and produced for Netflix by Selena Gomez – is certainly not short of an audience, or ability for the average teenager to find a way to access it.

The subject matter, issues raised and graphic depictions included in 13 Reasons Why have quickly become infamous, even amongst those who have not yet seen the show; prompting warnings and complaints from some and praise from others. I’ve personally seen these discussions popping up on my social media channels, and I’m sure you have too.

Before we continue and I interject my thoughts and feelings about the show, let me be clear, if the show’s content was triggering for you then I am personally truly sorry. If this content was triggering, then you’re probably in a really bad place, and I’m so sorry that you’ve found yourself there.  I wish you well on your journey to recovery, and I hope you can reach out and find the help you need (see below for some Australian resources or visit to find help in your country).

Whatever your opinion of the show’s content and graphic nature, it sure has succeeded in its goal to start a global conversation about youth suicide, mental health, sex and consent, verbal and physical sexual harassment, objectification of women, bullying, the role parents can have in helping with difficult situations, and the effects that your badly chosen words can have on others. These conversations are popping up on most social channels, even on some brand pages, and if you work with a younger audience or in the mental health sector, you’re likely to have seen these conversations spilling into your community. We’ve certainly seen discussions and debates about 13 Reasons Why in many of the mental health and youth communities we work on.

 You’re talking openly about the important things depicted in the show. You’re talking to your parents, your friends, your teachers, and that’s really important. – Alisha Boe (Jessica)

Because this show was able to make so many viewers feel as if it is telling their personal story, as if they are (or have been) one of the characters, it has provided a way to relate, and to discuss important topics. All over social media, and in real life, because of this show teens are having conversations about how their words cut each other; how being objectified as a female is a form of bullying; how to recognise the signs that your friends might not be okay; how to stand up against bullying, sexual violence and discrimination; and they’re feeling safe to tell each other if they aren’t okay.

While much of the discussion by adults has focused on the graphic content in the show, a common takeaway from younger audiences of this show has been a recognition that we all need to be kinder to each other, because you never know what someone might be going through and your words shouldn’t be adding to that burden.

“It has to get better. The way we treat each other and look out for each other. It has to get better somehow.”

The issues covered by this show, both in topic and in number, are commonplace in many high school environments, and the effects can be just as devastating as depicted. Because of the way is has been presented, the message of the show has been able to cut through with its younger audience. They have heard and understood many of the lessons the show tried to impart, and are ready to have serious conversations about some very sensitive and hard to broach topics. If you don’t believe us, check #13reasonswhy or the community around @13reasonswhy on Twitter or Instagram and take a look at the offers of help and advice and those accepting it (or take a look anyway and get a positive boost). This is a true testament to the power of online community and the benefits of peer support in the mental health sector.

So as more and more teens watch the show the chances of that change happening get higher and higher – at least so long as the adults in their lives are willing to help them implement it.

With that in mind, we wanted to leave you with some resources that might be helpful in learning how you can be a productive part of the conversation:

  • – the show has built a site that contains crisis resources for every country where it has been made available to view. User’s need only select their country to see a list of some of the relevant support lines available (for Australia that includes Lifeline and Kids Helpline). Users are also encouraged to call emergency services if they are in imminent danger
  • Whilst fans of the show are out there having these discussions, if you’re on the outside, finding your way in to have the conversation with someone you’re worried about can be difficult; especially if you can’t find the right words: beyondblue have some available here. They also have Online Forums for young people (under 25) who suffer from anxiety and depression.
  • 1 in 5 Australians experience mental ill health. With that stat in mind it’s good to know what to do when disclosures of suicide or self-harm pop up in your community. Read our post on how to deal with a suicide threat in an online community or get in touch with us to chat about our risk workshops, which cover mental health and suicide.
  • More online help for your teens can be found in Australia’s leading online mental health organisation, ReachOut, which has information, tools and forums specifically aimed at Australia’s youth to help them through bullying, harassment, cyberbullying, sexuality, health issues, loss & grief, and depression & anxiety. ReachOut also have a forum specifically for the parents of teens helping them connect with other parents and discuss ways to help their kids navigate the teen years.
  • Headspace, the national youth mental health foundation, provides early intervention mental health services for those aged 12-25. Their information and services can be accessed through their website and headspace centreseheadspace is their free and secure space where young people 12 – 25 or their family can confidentially chat, email or speak on the phone with a qualified youth mental health professional.
  • BITE BACK, operated by The Black Dog Institute, in an changeable online space that helps young people interact anonymously and discover ways to check and track their mental fitness. I’d love to describe it better, but the content of the site is quite agile. It currently includes activities, mental health checkups for a variety of topics, a blog, competitions and challenges.
  • Kids Helpline, 1800 55 1800, is Australia’s free phone counselling service, available to children from aged 5 to 25. Available 24/7 from anywhere in the country the service has been in operation for over 25 years now, providing practical help and emotional support to vulnerable children. In addition to their phone helpline, they now also offer information for parents, information for teachers, and a kids webchat and email counselling.

As community managers it’s our job to create safe environments where people feel comfortable talking about a wide range of topics without risk of ridicule, harassment, or bullying. The more we harness these safe spaces and allow discussions around mental health, suicide, consent and bullying (where appropriate; it goes without saying that these conversations aren’t relevant or appropriate to every community), the more we break down the stigma related to mental health and suicide.

To find out more about our work with mental health communities, get in touch today