13 Reasons Why – A Commentary – By Jaelyn Peek, Age 16Hal Eisenberg
I just finished watching the new tv show 13 Reasons Why on Netflix. It’s about a teenage girl who commits suicide, and records 13 tapes explaining why she did it and who was involved. While it is explicit and at certain points disturbing and painful to watch, it is also authentic and straightforward and brutally honest. There are scenes about bullying, rape, and suicide. But instead of turning the camera away at the ugly parts, the show depicts the reality of these situations that this society has swept under the rug. People don’t talk about rape or bullying or self harm or suicide because it makes them uncomfortable. It frightens them. People think that by educating children and teenagers and even adults about these topics, that it will cause a chain reaction of the same things. That it will give people ideas they shouldn’t have. But in truth, NOT talking about it and NOT educating people is so much more dangerous. Teenagers especially need to be taught what giving and getting consent in sexual situations looks like, they need to be taught that words and actions leave impacts that can stay with a person their entire lives, they need to be taught that they can talk to someone when they feel lost or alone or if someone has hurt them in any way. As we’ve all seen, the world is a scary and ugly enough place without children being in so much pain that they take their own lives. We’ve seen it in our own county, in our own schools, amongst our own loved ones and acquaintances. The more we don’t talk about bullying or rape or suicide, the more alone we’re allowing people to feel, the more dangerous words become, the more shame we are letting follow people around for longer than we realize. As a teenager who has been up against depression, who has witnessed bullying, who has researched rape and the reality of it, I suggest everyone who reads this to watch this show. Don’t stay quiet. Don’t be afraid to learn about these things. Yes, it’s scary, yes it’s ugly, yes it’s disturbing and painful to think about. But that’s the point. This generation, my generation and the generations of your children and your children’s children, is surrounded and consumed and will be surrounded and consumed by the media, by the ability to hide behind a screen, by the ability to permanently damage a person’s life and spirit with one click. There is no hope for any of us if we don’t start talking about these things and educating people about the reality of these situations. Take it from someone who has experienced it… there is no worse feelings than feeling like you don’t matter, like you’re a burden, like there’s no way things can ever get better. When someone gets to the point where they truly believe there is nobody that loves them or will be affected if they were gone, that is when they are most dangerous to themselves. It’s our job as a community and just as human beings, to never let anyone get to that point. It’s our job to teach and to learn about these things the right way, to talk about it and be real about it. And to be frank, we all need to do better at our job.