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I read the book 13 Reasons Why when I was deeply overwhelmed and suicidal. I had my pills ready to go because other self-harm means weren’t cutting it. I came across this book in my darkest hour giving me a chance to reframe my helpless situation.
For every one person that dies by suicide, 278 people contemplate suicide but do not choose to end their lives. I was exhausted fighting the battle brought on by my pain. I felt like an outcast, misunderstood and like I would never be good enough.
I felt that all my friendships were fake, that my family didn’t genuinely care for me. It felt as though they faded in and out of my life, only there for the good parts of myself and not the side of me that was hurt and angry. I felt so alone and that no one could possibly comprehend the depths of my unresolved trauma.
Reading 13 Reasons Why made me feel less isolated through connecting with someone else’s hardships. I wanted to feel connected, validated and a part of something bigger than what my daily life had shown me. I finally felt that my suicidality was an experience that other people shared.
In my isolated state watching someone experiencing similar thought patterns as myself gave me the courage to seek out my own support system. This is not a story that should be glamorized or romanticized, instead of one that should be carefully examined.
For every completed suicide, 25 individuals attempt to take their lives. On average, there are 123 suicides per day (American foundation for suicide prevention). Subsequently, every day 3,075 individuals have attempted suicide. These voices are not heard until it’s too late.
In contrast to the book, the 13 episode show was more difficult to digest as someone who has experienced suicidal ideation.
Reading the book allows one to omit the triggering descriptions and cling to the constructive concepts. Whereas in the show the graphic depictions of self-harm and suicide sucked me in without a way to erase the shocking images.
I wish they had presented the issues differently and more sensitively for people experiencing mental illness and suicidality. The show also lacked trigger warnings and resources at the end of episodes for people who are battling suicidality to get help.
Fortunately, the show opens up a broader venue to start a discussion about the stigma of people who are contemplating suicide and people experiencing mental illness. However, we must consider how reenacting trauma can have a negative influence on viewers especially when resources for support aren’t being addressed.
Like 13 Reasons Why, during Mental Health Month (and always) Painted Brain is committed to breaking the silence on triggers that spark mental illness and the symptoms that occur simultaneously.
Suicide prevention needs to be at the forefront of societal concerns to shed light and save lives. So let’s come together, discuss, break the stigma, and support one another.
Written By Allison Peters, an MSW intern at Painted Brain and Angela Tuckerman, lead clinician at Painted Brain
Edited By Ken Cohen and Nichole Kay, Psychology Interns at Painted Brain
Well said Allison and Angela and I’d have to agree….for folks that have had a personal history with suicide, ‘seeing it’ via film/tv versus reading it is definitely a much more difficult way to take in 13 Reasons and or well any story about suicide, but yes it certainly does help one see that they are not alone in this world/struggle/and or collective life.
This is very emotionally brave, honest and vulnerable.