Finishing a TV series always leaves you feeling a sort of void, but 13 Reasons Why took that feeling to a whole new level—and rightfully so—Even though we can eventually shake the fact that Hannah Baker is not a real person, we can’t shake the fact that there are still so many people out there feeling the exact same way she did—and that is very real.
Throughout the show, Hannah (who you immediately find out has killed herself) undergoes public humiliation, verbal and sexual harassment, plenty of miscommunication, and other much more painful interactions. The variety of situations with different people that she labels as reasons for her suicide really opens viewers’ eyes to how easily we impact the people around us. Every interaction can make a difference.
The thing is, we don’t talk about these things enough. We know people are suffering, and we know our words and actions affect people, but we tend to forget that that person could be right next to us. 13 Reasons Why took it beyond simply knowing and showed us how normal that misery can appear. It showed us that depression and suicidal symptoms don’t necessarily come in obvious packaging the way a person choking or having a heart attack does. We are trained to call 911 if someone is potentially dying, but are we trained enough in how to identify and react to a person who is emotionally dying?
We needed 13 Reasons Why as a raw reminder that no matter how insignificant we feel in the lives of others, and no matter how little we know about a person’s life, we do have the potential to make a difference—if only we act on it.
It’s not that we’re awful people, just like not all of the people who were Hannah’s reasons were completely awful (I’m looking at you, Bryce). But we really need to take a moment to consider our emotional availability. We tend to want to avoid awkward situations, so we hesitate before we speak. Clay’s character is the perfect example of this. He could have saved Hannah if he had been bold enough to tell her how he felt or at least just been more open with her—but he was so scared of the conversation going badly that he didn’t have it at all. We have all been Clay at some point. We’ve built these walls around us to the point where others may think it’s impossible to open up to or even approach us.
Let’s start tearing those walls down.
Let’s start by making eye contact with people now and then—even throw in a smile here and there. Let’s start by letting that girl know that she did an awesome job on her hair or telling that guy his Facebook post meant a lot to you. Let’s ask our coworker if they’re doing okay if they seem a little down. Let’s start putting ourselves out there to people so that it won’t be so scary for them to put themselves out there to us.
Let’s be the reason the real Hannahs of this world don’t feel like death is their only option.