The 13 UPlifts to counter the 13 reasons why

The second season of 13 Reasons Why is being released by Netflix on Friday, May 18th. The first season followed the fictional story of a teenager named Hannah Baker who died by suicide. Hannah left behind 13 audio recordings explaining the reasons why she took this action.

It is unknown at this time if prevention efforts have been integrated more effectively into the second season. Mental health professionals continue to voice their concerns about the impact this program is having on young audiences, especially those who are experiencing emotional distress and may consider suicide to be an option. However, an international study demonstrated that most viewers (including youth and their parents) thought the show was more beneficial than it was harmful by bringing attention to issues that are often harder to discuss. Dr. Ajit Jetmalani, one of the nations top child psychiatrists and a close friend of Youth ERA, counters this study in an op-ed that you can find here.  

There are some things viewers should be aware of before clicking play on 13 Reasons Why. First, Hannah's story does not reflect what prevention professionals know about youth suicide. Her suicide was extensively planned despite the fact that the vast majority of suicides appear to result from an impulse and not the desire for revenge. Furthermore, most who die by suicide do not leave explanations or notes behind for their loved ones to find.

Of particular concern is the message that if a young person takes their life, this should lead to a search for those who are to blame. There are always multiple factors involved in anyone's decision to attempt suicide and assigning blame is exceptionally unhelpful for the recovery of those impacted.

One limitation of the show is that it focuses solely on the mental health of Hannah, a heterosexual cis female. While acknowledging the importance of all awareness brought to youth mental health, it is important also to recognize that many youth who experience these feelings are dealing with additional issues that deserve the same sort of representation.  These factors include but are not limited to toxic masculinity, racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, high stakes testing and performance standards, etc.

An international study conducted following the release of the first season found that young viewers and their parents wanted further guidance on how to address the issues and questions raised by the series. This article intends to provide just that.

The guidance provided by this article is grounded in both positive psychology and trauma-informed care. Trauma-informed care gives insight for when life gets tough, whereas positive psychology, (also referred to as the “science of happiness”) gives insight into strategies people can use to live happy, empowered, and fulfilling lives.