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Don’t blame 13 Reasons Why

Eszter Sailer | I am sure a lot of you are familiar with the hit series, 13 Reasons Why, or at least have heard about it (a.k.a. seen the meme where a person asks for a pencil and the other one says no, then the first person says “welcome to your tape”). If not, the series is about a girl who committed suicide, but before the event, she recorded thirteen tapes in which she explains why she chose to end her life.

A lot of articles (here) have warned people that 13 reasons why can be dangerous. According to psychologists, the series can be harmful and can send the wrong message to teenagers by glorifying suicide. Teenagers with suicidal thoughts should avoid watching it, according to experts, as it can give that one little incentive to troubled sixteen year olds to get a blade and cause themselves irrevocable wounds.

Sure, seeing exactly how someone died and having heard and seen all the Reasons Why is a lot of emotional baggage that the viewers have to witness and to even go through. But to put all the blame of suicidal teens or people in general on a series is a bit too much for my taste.

I am not pretending to be an expert, I do not know how peoples’ minds work, I am just trying to come up with a clear way to bring across my message – if a person or a teenager, who is suffering from mental illness or feels alone, kills themselves or develops a tendency for it, it is not because of a TV series. I know it is a really touchy subject, but the reasoning of these articles about psychologists’ warnings can not be that simplistic.

Blaming a TV series for creating or worsening mental illness or encouraging to end your own life could be exaggerated. Again, I do not know (or maybe not yet) what plays in the head of a mentally ill or lonely person, but, for the same reasons, people could ban all action video games. Yet, children still play them, whereas video games influence kids just as much as TV shows. You could say these articles are only a warning from experts, just as with video games or even violent movies for that matter, but come on.

The series got attention, and people had to talk about it. However, there are thousands, if not millions, of different video games and action or horror movies that show just as many amount ways to torture or kill people. Series like 13 Reasons Why are few. Or none, who knows.

Yes, it received a lot of attention, it is a trend now, and people care about it. People also care about video games and movies that entertain them even if it contains, oh I don’t know, cutting through a bone excruciatingly slowly, while evilly laughing in the background. How does that sound?

Not realistic, you say? 13 Reasons Why is more dangerous, because it is realistic, you say? Things that happen in movies could happen in real life. Wars have seen worse. The situation in several parts of the world is just as bad as in those games or movies. So how does a just as realistic show receive this much attention and warning? Is it because it is a trend and people will look at it? Or is it because it is so realistic? Even the argument that it is so realistic could backfire. The countless videos of bombs destroying cities and countries could be just as bad. More lives are taken than the single one in the series. Maybe we became too desensitized to violent news. Oh oh oh, see, well that’s not the TV show’s fault.

But let us not dwell on the violent games/movies vs. 13 Reasons Why matter. If the child, teenager, or person at hand does not feel the ability to share their problems, because, as in the series, the parents do not seem to be able to handle their problems or help them get through them, it is not the series’ fault. If a child seeks out help and that help gets taken away from them, and upon watching these series they feel like it is like this in every case, it is not the series’ fault.

Yes, it can have emotional effects on people, yes, it is explicit and it deals with suicide in a very realistic way. Certainly, it can enhance some feelings teenagers have, like feeling alone, or feeling like there are very few ways to make it out of the bad place they’re in. And sure, warn your kids to watch these things with caution. But then please, do it with every single way of entertainment that could contain things like this.

More importantly, do not warn them against the series. Teach them how to ask for help. Teach them that it is okay to talk about your problems. Teach them that suicide is not glorious. Teach them that they are not alone, and even in the darkest of times, there will be someone who can understand them. It might not even be the parents or the student counsellor. In that case, teach them who to contact. Tell them that you are always there if they need to vent or have questions. Show them that you have time for their problems. That way, a popular TV series will not have the worst effects on them.

Or a very simple lesson, teach them to be patient, to read the whole question before answering it, like I was told so many times in school. Then, your children would see further than their noses, and realize that immediately after the last episode, all the crucial, 13 talking points () are even presented before anyone can click ‘close’ on the window.

Of course, even a seemingly healthy person, or someone that is not even aware of their own problems can watch this series and it could change their life. But if they have been brought up in a home that is supportive and knows where to get help, one series will not take away lives.

You could even tell teenagers that things do not happen like they do in series, movies or video games. Even if they do. And if you fail to see that this series and its creators have done their best to offer help and to emphasize the seriousness of this issue, then for the last time, it is not their fault.

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