We need to talk about Hannah, Hannah Baker
You can’t scroll through Facebook without having some article or meme relating to the Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why. Some people have commended the series for opening dialogue around suicide, while others including mental health professionals have condemned what they describe as an irresponsible handling of the issue.
For those who have managed not to be drawn in to the latest must-watch series, without giving too much away here is a quick breakdown. The story follows 17 year old, Clay Jensen, who after his classmate commits suicide receives a box of tapes.
When he listens to the first tape he hears a familiar voice speaking:
“Hey it’s Hannah, Hannah Baker. Don’t adjust whatever device you’re hearing this on; it’s me, live and in stereo. No return engagements. No encore and this time absolutely no requests. Get a snack, settle in, because I’m about to tell you the story of my life; more specifically, why my life ended.”
Recorded before she died the tapes detail the 13 reasons why she committed suicide. We listen with Clay, one tape at a time and learn just how we all can, unknowingly and most times knowingly, mistreat people without considering the consequences.
It has been a few weeks since I finished binge-watching the series and I have to admit it has taken me a while to comment on it. This is because the story tackles extremely heavy content for a high school drama from drink driving, rape and of course suicide.
The last episode especially is traumatizing and comprehending what I just watched took a few days. It’s this intense impact the content has, that mental health professionals are concerned for vulnerable audiences where this series could act as a trigger. If you think that this narrative will conjure distressing memories or feelings then please choose to forgo watching.
Headspace Australia has heard concerns and has provided a fact sheet for schools and parents on how to talk to young people about the series.
What is important about Hannah’s story is that it is getting people to talk about mental health, suicide and its prevention. It forces us to address the way we treat others and to be aware of the signs when someone is crying out for help. The show captures how we don’t realize the immense impact our actions and words can have on each other.
The topics and emotions of this harrowing story are something that I can’t seem to shake, and by just looking at the commentary online many of you can’t seem to shake it either. Its timely to remind others to reach out to people who may feel as Hannah did. To let them know that this final decision is not your only option. I would hope that everyone would reach a point where you know that YOU are loved and no matter how broken you are inside God has opened His home to you.
For Christians, it’s a reminder of how important it is to be a light for those in darkness and to share the love, life and grace that is bestowed on us through Jesus.
We do need to talk about Hannah Baker and mental health is an important discussion that should be shared in the home, workplace and congregations. Let’s take the time to talk to each other and actually, really, listen.
For 24/7 crisis support and suicide prevention services, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au/gethelp.
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