By: Abigail DesVergnes
Netflix’s new drama,‘13 Reasons Why has been added to many high-schoolers’ binge-watch lists, making it one of the most popular series of the year. But the show’s graphic depiction of teen suicide has left local teens divided — both criticizing and praising the show’s intentions.
The 13-episode series follows the suicide story of Hannah Baker, a 17-year-old who leaves behind 13 recorded tapes, each explaining a reason for her suicide.
The show covers heavy topics including: bullying, sexual assault and depression, building up to the final episode — a graphic depiction of Baker’s suicide.
The controversy surrounding the show is a major topic of discussion in high schools across the country and locally among administration, guidance counselors, and of course — students.
At Attleboro High School, high school seniors are divided on their opinions of the show, some arguing that the storyline is an accurate representation of what goes on in the life of a high school student, while others argue that its dramatized representation of suicide goes too far.
Kyla Mucciarone, 18, recently finished the Netflix series and said it left her thinking.
“(It) gives a deeper insight into the mind of someone who is suffering from depression and shows that you never really know what’s going on in someone’s life,” she said.
The golden rule: “Treat others the way you want to be treated,” was a message Noah Sweeney, 17, said he took away from the show.
“No matter what, you have to respect the people around you and be kind,” he said. “Just something as little as a friendly smile could make someone’s day.”
Mucciarone and Sweeney both said although the series was extremely difficult to watch, its message about depression was eye-opening.
“The show is far beyond suicide,” Sweeney said. “It’s about everything that led up to it.”
Others were disturbed watching the series, finding themselves unable to stomach some of the topics covered, especially Baker’s suicide.
For Cassie Cabral, 17, the final episode proved the most difficult to watch.
“I found myself looking away from the device I was watching it on. It was very scary. It was not something I wanted to watch someone do to themselves,” she said.
Other students agreed, and said the show’s depiction of suicide could be dangerous to someone suffering from mental illness.
One study found that exposure to portrayals of suicide can negatively influence those experiencing suicide risk factors. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention said risk of additional suicides increases when a story “explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images, and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.”
“I would say in a medical sense that what they are showing is very dangerous,” said 18-year-old Meghan Cooper. “If seeing that could have a negative effect on someone dealing with suicidal thoughts, then to me, the show loses its purpose all together.”
Cooper also said the show should present more ideas about finding help and dealing with depression realistically.
“There is help out there,” she said. “No guidance counselor will turn you away if you tell them you are suicidal.”
The storyline caused concern for at least one student.
Owen Scannell, 17, said he has suffered from depression throughout his youth.
“‘13 Reasons Why glorifies suicide in a world where kids learn more from media than in school, and that terrifies me,” he said.
Scannell said he was lucky enough to have a strong support system who helped him in his times of need.
In times of depression, Scannell knows first-hand how sensitive people can be, and he is concerned that people struggling with depression are putting themselves at risk by watching the show.
“My advice for anyone dealing with depression: As much as you feel it, as much as it may seem, you are not alone,” he said. “If you can’t find your light, your rock, your anchor, then be someone else’s. Try new things, make mistakes, you might get hurt, but hey, that’s how you know you’re alive.”