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13 Reasons Why explores complexity of suicide

Netflix’s on-screen adaptation of Jay Asher’s best-selling young adult novel 13 Reasons Why is a compelling drama that portrays suicide and sexual assault in a unflinchingly, honest way.

The story centers around 13 tapes that Hannah Baker left after her suicide., These tapes explain the 13 reasons why she committed suicide, and is passed around to the 13 people involved in those reasons. The series starts with Clay Jensen, the main protagonist, receiving the tapes. The viewer discovers the secrets within the tapes along with Clay, which presents a story of bullying, betrayal and sexual assault.

The show doesn’t shy away from it’d portrayal of sexual assault. The scenes were filmed in long sequences with close-ups on faces and hands; the only thing you hear is breathing, leaving the image engraved in the viewer’s mind. Afterwards, when Hannah comes to terms with what happened to her and sees her abuser in the halls at school, we see Hannah attempt to seek help with someone who was obviously not trained to handle the situation. She becomes immediately discouraged.

This is a reality for victims, and being honest about it on screen in a teenage drama can open-up room for discussion. We don’t see how Hannah decided to end her life until the final episode. In the book, Clay mentions within the first pages that Hannah swallowed a handful of pills, but in the series, they chose to show Hannah ending her life with a blade to her wrists in an overflowing bathtub to be found by her family. Clay explains the scene to Mr. Porter, their school counselor, just before the viewer is shown, proving that it’s even harder to watch than to imagine.

At first glance, it seems like the show’s purpose was to completely antagonize those that were on the tapes for their insensitivity, immaturity and responsibility for Hannah’s suicide. But, the show does a better job arguing for the truth of both sides.

Hannah’s classmates were aware of their betrayal and chose to turn away from their part in her unravelling until being forced to come to terms with the repercussions of their actions. Hannah was a victim of assault and suffered from depression: she needed more help than she received.

The initiative to seek help from every source available is one that only the victim can do.

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If you, or anyone you know, is struggling with depression or has been assaulted, contact student health services at 801-863-8867.

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