But that really isn't even the point. This can't be a score card of mental illness. It doesn't matter if I was Hannah Baker or just Hannah Stratton.
At 15 I had trauma coupled with mental illness. I entered into a relationship hoping this boy could save me. Hoping he could help me through my mental health. Completely no realizing (being 15) that was never a responsibility for him.
At 15, one mid-February night, I walked into the icy Mississippi River, I had no shoes on. I walked up to my waist and called my boyfriend and left a good-bye message. I think I texted him too. I was in a pretty brutal place. We had had a fight and a few blocks from my house I just got out of his car on the street and he drove away. I was in the water for about an hour. I ended up calling my Youth Pastor- who very gentle coaxed me out of the water. That boyfriend had gotten pulled over speeding back to Clinton and altered the Police that I was suicidal. I was greeted by an officer at our local Wendy's. Soaking and freezing. It was a good hour and half to two hours from entering the water that I got warm. My plan had either been to freeze to death or drown.
I read "13 Reasons Why" as a teen. At the time, I loved the book while also rather hating Hannah Baker. I hated her and I got her. I saw how she hurt people. That very night- one of my friends thought that if I had died- it would have been her fault. That never left me. That I could hurt someone who had nothing to do with my mental health at all.
It has since been made a Netflix tv phenomenon. I admittedly haven't been able to bring myself to watch. This show hits pretty close to home to me. While many are praising it to the heavens, I have to disagree. Case in Point:
Clay is what 17? When you are 17 it's pretty damn fine to be afraid to love a girl. You cannot be a boyfriend and a shrink. The responsibility this character feels is so ridiculous to me. Exactly what message does this show give to teens? "If you commit suicide everyone will feel bad and understand your tragic story?" This smacks to me of glorifying tragedy.
A few months ago I watched a video. A horrific video of a 13 year old girl hanging herself outside of her home. A broken child- a victim of sexual assault- who found her only option was to die. It was a horrific tragedy of a life cut short.
I've seen some arguments that this program opens the conversation for how we treat victims of rape, bullying, and teen mental illness. I find that pretty weak. Sure, this does that. However, shouldn't also every teen suicide do that too? We can make it the conversation and we can do that without glorifying magnificent loss.
Then again, hey, here I am talking about it. Maybe the show is worth while. I will have to watch for myself to see if the theme of misplaced responsibility continues. See, we carry how we treat others, we all carry how we respond to them and how we show kindness. However, unless you are in a profession to provide help, you are not burdened with saving anyone. Even then. I have no degree or fancy initials by my name to give me any credibility to how this show could be damaging; only my experience.
As I raise my kids, the conversation on bullying, consent, health, and kindness begins now and will continue as they grow. I will have my kids read the book. I will talk with him about how the relationships displayed here have negative connotations. I will discuss with them where exactly their responsibility is. Often in teen programming; "Vampire Diaries" for example: You have alleged High School kids in relationships that are fascinatingly adult. Not simply in their sexual relationships but in their emotional investment and co-dependency. This creates a romantic model for teens of "you must be my everything" and that you best find your soul-mate at 15. None of these messages are healthy for teen minds that are so easily impressionable.
Watching the show or not isn't the issue to me. It's how we treat these shows in our homes. It's whether or not we let our kids absorb these messages with no parental filter to show them where the "non-reality" line is. Have conversations with your kids. Talk about these pop-culture relationships. They are great examples, watch them WITH your kids. Spend time together to help keep them safe.