The controversial Netflix show 13 Reasons Why is relatable, but it's also dangerous, says a young woman who has been through depression.
Lucy McSweeney, 21, was worried the show might encourage someone who is in a depressed or suicidal state to take their own life, but also felt she was able to relate to the issues raised by the main character, Hannah Baker.
The show focuses on 13 cassette tapes Hannah recorded before her suicide, each of which relates to an incident that contributed to her decision to kill herself.
The tapes are shared around by her schoolmates, who are told they are each one of the reasons Hannah died.
I can choose how I can react, I can choose how it can make me feel.
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McSweeney, who went through depression in her last year of college and now speaks out on mental health, said she was worried about the graphic depiction of Hannah's suicide and the fact Hannah was getting attention and revenge from it.
"I think searching for someone to blame for the way you're feeling is a really normal thing to do ... the way that she thinks about it is a really dangerous, easy trap to fall into, in terms of blaming people, in terms of not taking personal responsibility for how you feel," she said.
"It's a really easy thing to feel, really common way to feel, but not a good way to feel, not a productive way to feel."
My biggest worry [is that] in Hannah's case, it gets her what she wants. She gets control, she gets revenge, she ends her suffering. For someone that was in a tough space it might seem like an appealing thing.
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For McSweeney, battling through her depression involved her taking control and ownership of the way she was feeling, and seeking help.
"I can choose how I can react, I can choose how it can make me feel," she said.
McSweeney was worried a teenager who was in a suicidal state and watched the show might feel it validated their own feelings.
"My biggest worry [is that] in Hannah's case, it [suicide] gets her what she wants. She gets control, she gets revenge, she ends her suffering. For someone that was in a tough space it might seem like an appealing thing."
She was also worried the depiction of Hannah's suicide might encourage copycats.
Looking back, McSweeney said she might have avoided watching the show if she was still depressed.
Watching the show now, she felt she was able to relate to a lot of the things Hannah spoke about in the tapes.
"I think it is a pretty good, accurate depiction of how it feels from the inside out."
McSweeney noted a line from the show, where Hannah told listeners the incidents mentioned in the tapes might be seen as "little things", but that the little things added up.
McSweeney said that was "really relevant", and what might seem like small things to adults could feel particularly big to a 16- or 17-year-old.
She liked that the show addressed issues such as sexual assault, but wished there was more discussion about that element.
"I'm sad that there's not more conversation about the sexual assault, that's a really common experience," she said.
McSweeney is campaigning for better mental health and wellbeing education in high schools. A petition for the cause can be found online.
The petition, called Let's Get Mental Health Education In All NZ Schools, has more than 6000 signatures so far.
Where to get help:
- Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
- Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
- Youthline: 0800 376 633
- Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
- Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
- Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
- Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
- Samaritans: 0800 726 666
- If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.