The television scene that should never have been screened
FOR the past couple of weeks I've seen a slew of positive articles written about 13 Reasons Why.
I hadn't read the book or watched the Netflix series until this week.
Last night I watched in horror as the final episode of the series depicted graphic scenes of a young girl killing herself.
The scene was disturbing to watch, not just because of the content but because I'm aware of the strict guidelines and standards that journalists are held to when reporting on suicide.
One of the key guidelines is not depicting or describing the method or location of the suicide.
I was shocked that a series that was made for a teenage audience depicted a scene that was practically a how-to guide.
Of course I will not repeat the details of what was depicted. To anyone who does choose to watch it, I caution you - once it's seen, it can't be unseen.
The series in general presented suicide as a way to end pain or solve one's problems.
I found the general idea repulsive - a teenager sends 13 tapes to thirteen people and each one of them are "responsible" in some way for her decision to end her life.
Do you need help?
Lifeline 13 11 14
headspace 1800 650 890
beyondblue 1300 224 636
Suicide call back service 1300 659 467
In real life, however, there's usually no one to blame. Just friends and family who are left devastated, who are left wishing they had known how deep their loved one's pain was before it was too late.
In 13 Reasons Why, suicide is presented as the ultimate middle finger to the people who harm the main character, Hannah Baker, but in real life suicide is the ultimate act of despair. It cannot be glorified or glamourised, it can only be mourned.
The series shows the horrible things that happened to this girl before she took her life, but in real life it's not usually a series of terrible events that leads to suicide, although they may contribute to a person's worsening mental state.
The words "depression" and "anxiety" were not used once during the series.
It could have been a valuable discussion of mental health, but instead it became a sordid revenge fantasy.
Choosing how one reports on suicide has never been more important.
When Robin Williams ended his own life in 2014, the media coverage of his death was intense.
I saw a number of reports that detailed how he had killed himself, which I thought was completely irresponsible.
Suicide hotlines reported that in the weeks after Mr Williams' death, the number of calls being made tripled.
I'm so grateful that in this day and age, people can ask for help if they need it and they know where to find it.
I know it's a cliché, but suicide really is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
And the pain that people feel doesn't go away as a result of suicide. One mother who lost her son told me that it just gets passed on, to her and to everyone who cared about him.
The one moment that did move me during the series was the moment the girl's parents find her body.
It clearly showed their grief and horror at what had happened to their daughter.
It was a stark reminder that even if it doesn't feel like it when one is dealing with mental illness, there are people to reach out to who will be devastated if they don't get the opportunity to help before it's too late.
To anyone who is struggling, please remember you're not alone and get the help you need.