A Teacher’s Take on “13 Reasons Why”

A recent article said 13 Reasons Why is the most tweeted about show in 2017.

This controversial series is raising concern. The show, first a young adult book by Jay Asher, follows the life of a high school girl who leaves behind 13 tapes each with a reason why she chose to end her life.

Although Netflix has increased the warnings before the most controversial episodes, no one is stopping the series at that point. If anything, doesn’t it make you want to watch it even more?

Why do tweens and teens like the show so much? They relate. The topics are heavy and include everything from friendship to rape. While many of the topics covered in the series are not typical dinner conversations, they are real.

I work with students who, for the most part, come from loving homes. Even they deal with many of these issues. Sadly there have been days where students confide in me about bullying issues, family or friendship struggles, thoughts of hurting themselves, and even rape. I put my professional but compassionate face on for these students while we walk through the proper channels of informing the guidance office and making steps forward to help the student. What the students don’t know is that I go home and cry about these situations. When they hurt, I hurt.

I understand why students like this show because it talks about the issues no one wants to discuss. Anyone naive enough to think students aren’t experiencing this needs to be educated. Wouldn’t it be better to allow students to watch the show and open up discussions. While I, too, fear copycat behavior, I do see a need for students to know that everything they say and do has a ripple effect. Every person is responsible for their actions, and you never know what someone else is going through.

While the show romanticizes aspects of suicide, it is also giving us an open door to discuss ways people who feel alone can receive help. I even spoke with one student about the show who said she needed to stop herself from watching it because it was too real. That’s a warning sign. She needed someone to talk to who was trained professionally- not me. The show might scare a lot of parents and educators, but I’m taking the approach that it might just open some doors to help people get the help they deserve.