If you’ve been anywhere on the internet the past few days, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of people talking about Netflix’s newest show “13 Reasons Why.” Based on the 2007 novel written by Jay Asher, the series focuses on the lives of a select group of people who have a pretty big thing in common: they’re the reason for Hannah Baker’s suicide.
Some people love the series and others hate it (like me), but a common truth is that the show is one of few that accurately depicts the warning signs of suicide and shows just how much a person's actions — good and bad — can affect those around them.
It isn’t often that we’re given the chance to watch something that isn’t afraid of touching on a serious subject like teen-suicide. The show will undoubtedly influence the tone and storylines of other teen TV shows — we’ll see if that turns out to be a good thing— but I was pretty disappointed to find that it’s also spawned a fairly tasteless meme. In a world where ridiculous memes spread like wildfire, I think it’s important to talk about why we shouldn’t be turning suicide — even TV suicide — into a laughing matter.
Suicide isn’t a joke
Yes, the story of Hannah Baker is fictitious, but it’s still rooted in fact. Depression is incredibly real and affects almost 7% of the American population — that’s over 15 million people suffering with a depressive disorder.
More than 5,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 commit suicide every year in the United States alone, making it the third leading cause of death amongst young adults. This is also in the United States, a country that has access to more mental health services than others. In other places, like Japan, the rates are even higher with 20,000 people committing suicide in the past year.
By taking the phrase “welcome to your tape” (a line Hannah Baker says before explaining how that specific person led her to suicide) and turning it into a joke, we’re not considering how those with mental illness may feel. People who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts can find it extremely difficult to tell that to others, especially to those who actually prompted said thoughts in the first place.
By making fun of what set Hannah Baker on her path to suicide you’re potentially making fun of an actual person suffering from depression, and odds are it could be someone you know.
We don’t need 13 reasons why this meme needs to stop, we just need one: the choices you make will always have some sort of consequence (as we’ve learned from the show’s harrowing storyline), so make the right one, and don’t be a part of something that makes a mockery of someone else’s suffering — even if it is just about a TV show.