If you haven’t heard the buzz, the Netflix mini-series “13 Reasons Why” has taken over many conversations in the educational community. Based on the book by Jay Asher, it focuses on high schoolers (set in today’s educational environment) with the usual cliques (cool kids, preppies, honors kids, jocks, band kids, and…). A student at their school, Hannah, takes her own life, and another student, Clay, returns home from school to find that he has received a package in the mail containing seven double-sided cassette tapes from Hannah, each tape detailing an incident and a person that played into why she killed herself. They had been sent to several others before arriving at Clay’s door. There were 13 parts on Netflix, and, after watching each segment, I had a nasty knot in my stomach. Some knots were from my own awkward high-school experiences; others were from the blatant evil that today’s students can be subjected to or can utilize.
I don’t want to give away the entire story, but it starts with an incident that I blogged about last spring. (On a side note, that post gained a bit of traction when someone became completely paranoid and thought he/she was the only one who received it. This is not sexual harassment; this is educational information.) Hannah has a picture taken of her with a boy on a “date” which is seen by the boy’s friend and taken completely out of context. His friend grabs the phone and then sends the picture out to an entire class, which eventually makes it around the entire school.
Topics include the aforementioned body shaming, rape, sexual assault, cover-ups, and societal acceptance–the daily grind of what high-school life is today. High school is an interesting navigation as is. Throw in today’s technology, and you have a whole new world–a world where previous generations can’t even begin to fathom what is happening in school anymore. It’s no longer passing notes and settling the score at the flagpole over some stolen milk money.
Teen suicide is the second largest cause of death in the US. For every teen who commits suicide, at least six others are thinking about following that same path. Despite such a terrible statistic, conversations are happening every single day about getting people the help they need. While the series has launched a multitude of proactive stances and resources, it has also caused some copy-cat incidents and some concerns from mental health experts.