One thing you have to know about me is this: when I really like something, I really really really like it. Like almost obsessively sometimes.
Must be those previously referred to OCD tendencies of mine!
And when I really like something that resonates with me I find it hard to leave it behind.
One thing I’ve obsessed a little over lately has been the Netflix original series of “13 Reasons Why” based on the book by Jay Asher. I read the book upon its release many moons ago but for the life of me I couldn’t remember most of it so I got very caught up in those 13 episodes.
In fact I binge watched them over the course of 4 nights – which is a big thing considering my baby doesn’t sleep at night so sleep is precious to me! It must be good if I gave up the must needed sleep!
Mainly I was interested in the mental health aspect of the storyline. As I deal with my own issues I find myself drawn to series and documentaries that tell honest stories that I can relate to and the premise here promised to engage me if told correctly.
Now without spoiling anything for those of you interested in watching it, or currently plowing through it, I’ll give a super quick synopsis: the new girl at a public school, teenage Hannah Baker commits suicide and leaves a series of tapes (how retro I hear you say!) narrating the reasons why she chose to end her own life. Each tape is dedicated to one person who made a decision, no matter how innocuous, that negatively influenced Hannah’s life.
The series has been met with mixed reviews and while I can see there may be a risk of somewhat “glamourising” suicide with a story told in this manner, from my own personal perspective I see it as depicting the life Hannah left behind and the devastation left in her wake. The tapes tie the story together giving us the how and why but the heart of the story, at least for me, lies in the heartbreak of those she left behind. The ones she could have reached for.
I see it as instructing us to pick our words carefully. To choose kindness where we can. To think before we act.
Because we just never know how what we say or do, or don’t say or don’t do, will affect someone. We can’t know. So I wish to teach my little ones to be kind and hope those around them are also kind.
Needless to say I was sucked in from the outset but as the series progressed I found myself really dwelling on how my own kids will handle their teenage years in a world that, at times, is unbearably cruel. As the story peaks, and we see the final moments of Hannah’s choice I found myself in floods of tears at the thought of just how everyone and everything around her had failed her so badly and how commonplace suicide in teens is.
But even as commonplace as it is, sadly it is still a fairly taboo topic to address. The series gives you perspectives from a huge range of angles, even ones you may not think affected: the harassed main character Hannah, the bullies (both knowingly and unsuspectingly) surrounding her fate, the friends who did too little, the parents who saw too little, the teachers who paid too little attention – even an insight into the parents of the would-be bullies and friends.
It was just wonderfully structured. And impeccably well cast.
Right to the end I was hoping it was all a big misunderstanding and Hannah would come to realise that feeling the way she felt was only temporary. That things get better after secondary school/high school. That just because you may be judged in the small pond you currently reside in, there’s a whole ocean out there where you can be whatever you want to be. The only obstacle is the limit of your imagination!
I feel sad and more than a little helpless that my kids may face these issues some day. Or indeed that they may be the cause of another parents child feeling as Hannah felt.
It has remained in the back of my mind since seeing the program. I mean, there’s often debate as to whether nature or nurture makes a person what they are but what about surroundings?
Several of the would-be bullies came from seemingly loving homes, Hannah herself surely came from a loving home, yet peer pressure made many of these characters do things they would never have done without certain influences. Many of their parents look past the glaringly obvious to reach for the denial: “He’s not that type of person.” or “She would never do that.” But who’s to say what happens to your children and the morals you worked so hard to instill when they are feeling the pressure of their fellow teens.
And the fact that they keep everything so secret from their parents scares me as I personally grew up in a home where nothing was off the table. I have always been able to be open with my parents. I hope so much that my children will be honest with me as they grow. This series reinforces the fact that secrets, no matter how small or seemingly harmless, are damaging.
I know that, for us anyway, these issues are still a while off as my eldest is only five and I think if I dwell on it over much my anxiety will run away with me.
For now, I just have to try steer those little feet as best I can and hope that once those angst filled teenage years hit, my sons will know they can always come to me or their dad, or even each other. That they will know they can be open, honest and never judged within our walls. That no matter what happens, or where they go, or what they become they will always be our children who we love beyond words.