Whether you have read the book, watched the series, or heard about it in the news, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is the show everyone is talking about.
Based on the novel of the same name by Jay Asher, 13 Reasons Why tells the story of 17-year-old Hannah Baker who after taking her own life leaves behind 13 audio tapes explaining why.
While many have criticized the series for its glamorization of mature themes such as rape and suicide, for the last few months Calgary Counselling Centre has been speaking with the media and clients about the impact the series has had on conversations about mental health.
In Calgary alone, four to eight teenagers in every classroom are depressed, but only one or two of them are getting help. Not every kid can talk about what’s going on inside of them, and the ones that do can find it difficult to articulate and communicate exactly what they are going through.
“It can be difficult to understand what the life space of a young person looks like today,” says Cathy Keough, Director of Counselling Initiatives at Calgary Counselling Centre. “The nature of the series is very complex, but the one thing that was evident in the show, was that the young people didn’t feel they had a way to express what was going on inside of them.”
The series holds nothing back as it covers a wide range of topics and themes that can be difficult for many to talk about, but what Keough emphasizes is that these are important issues that need to be discussed and we must continue conversations about mental health.
In interviews Keough did with 90.3 Amp Radio and AM770 in Calgary, she discusses how she and her 15-year-old daughter have recently been personally affected by suicide and how the series has been useful in opening the conversation about suicide with young people in her life.
“Unfortunately, suicide does happen, but we need to be open to talking about it and to talking about mental health,” Keough said. “My advice to parents, to teachers, to guidance counsellors would be to watch the series and be open to having these conversations. The show brings to light the question ‘what are the young people in your life watching?’ ‘looking at on the web?’ There is a lot of unfiltered information out there and we need to take these opportunities to be supportive and guiding in many moments in our young people’s lives.”
Just like most content we consume, the material in the show may be helpful to some and hurtful to others. Keough recommends that audiences no younger than 13 watch the series. “The material is difficult to digest, but if you do find that your child, at any age, has questions, be open to discussing it with them.”
Statistics show that one in five women and one in ten men will experience some form of depression in their lifetime. The good news is that depression is treatable.
At Calgary Counselling Centre, we work every day to create conversations about mental health and bring awareness to the fact is help is available. Whether you agree or disagree with 13 Reasons Why, the series has forces us all to take a second look at those around us and become cognizant of their feelings and actions.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, know that help is available. To learn more about the resources available in your area visit the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention at http://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
At Calgary Counselling Centre we have several options available for youth who are interested in counselling. Click here to learn more about our individual and group programs available to children and youth or to register for counselling.