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*DISCLAIMER: as an organisation we neither recommend nor advise against watching the series 13 Reasons Why. This show deals with topics of drug use, drinking, depression, rape, bullying, domestic abuse, and suicide. While we realise the show may be healing and encouraging to some, we also acknowledge that it may be triggering and harmful for others. Please consult a therapist, guardian, or your recovery team before watching if you are unsure.
I am not here to tell you whether or not you should watch 13 Reasons Why. The fact is we are all different and our experiences are unique. Similarly, our triggers and responses to them also differ.
For me, watching 13 Reasons Why was incredibly healing.
I’ve never felt so heard and understood by a fictional story. There were points difficult to watch, but I was in a place where it was healthy to continue. I also had enough resources and people in place to allow me to not only get through it, but also learn more about myself and grow from it.
That being said, I am fully aware that my experience will not be the experience of everyone.
Depending on your personality, your life experiences, and the place you are at right now, watching this series may not be a healthy thing–perhaps ever or perhaps just for now.
This is why I want to share this list of things to consider before starting the series.
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If you have already started, I still encourage you to read this list as a way to check-in with yourself as you decide whether you will continue watching (as I believe this is a decision that should be made on an episode-by-episode basis).
If you have already finished watching 13 Reasons Why, I encourage you to also check out my article for “[After Watching 13 Reasons Why]”.
Things to Consider:
1. Why are you watching?
As with anything, it’s important we explore the why behind what we’re doing. The same goes for deciding whether to watch 13 Reasons or not. Are you watching to be entertained? To heal? Because you read the book? To learn (perhaps you’re a teacher, therapist, or parent)?
There is no “right” or “wrong” reason here–unless you are solely watching in order to experience pain–it’s just important to be aware of why you are making the decision to watch as it will help you ensure your “why” stays on track as you go through the series.
It is also important to constantly check in with yourself as you watch to see if your “WHY” changes as you get further into the series. For example, perhaps you were initially watching because you were a fan of the book, but now you’re watching because, despite the way it’s making you feel, you have a sense that you “have to” because you already started. This is a good reason to reconsider whether it’s worth it to continue. Or maybe you watched because you wanted to be part of the conversation, but now you realize you are actually watching to perpetuate a state of sorrow or depression that you find yourself in. If this is the case, it most definitely is time to stop (at least for now).
If you are watching as a parent, teacher, counsellor, youth worker, etc I think it’s important to push through even if it makes you uncomfortable. By this I don’t mean if you also are being triggered; but if you are mentally healthy watching it, but the topics themselves or the story makes you uncomfortable, it is important to continue because these are real issues that teenagers and young adults are dealing with and it’s important not to turn a blind eye just because they may be uncomfortable.
One simple note, if you are watching only in the hopes of being entertained, I would gently discourage you. If you are looking for teen entertainment, consider watching something else as there are loads of teen dramas that don’t carry the same weight and potential trigger factor as 13 Reasons. If you are looking for something to watch because you enjoy stories that deal with mental health or teen issues, I would encourage you to start by watching movies such as The Perks of Being A Wallflower, The Spectacular Now, or Silver Linings Playbook (not that these wouldn’t potentially have triggering topics, but generally they are an easier, safer watch).
2. What is your emotional state right now?
Knowing where you are at emotionally is an important factor in deciding whether watching 13 Reasons Why is a good idea for you now or ever. If you think you are in an emotionally unstable or vulnerable place, it likely is not a good idea to watch right now.
Additionally, as with your reasons behind watching, it is important to continually check-in with your emotional state as you go through the series if you do decide to watch it. Your emotional stability may be altered by the show or by external factors. It’s important to be aware of your emotional state before embarking on each new episode.
3. Do you have someone to watch with?
Having someone to watch this series (or specific episodes) with is ideal. This could be watching it with someone else in the room, or could be virtually watching through the show with someone else. This gives you someone you can talk to and debrief with.
4. Who knows you are watching?
Whether you are watching with someone or not, it is important that at least one other person knows you are watching 13 Reasons. This could be a counsellor or guardian, or could be a close friend or group of people.
5. Who can you talk to while watching?
Similar to #3 and 4, it’s important you have someone you can actually talk to about your experience watching the show. This should be an ongoing conversation as you go through the show, not just someone you plan to talk to once the show is over.
I strongly recommend at least one of the people you talk to be a counsellor. However, a guardian, sponsor (accountability partner), or close friend will also do. Ensure it is someone who understands the potential heaviness of the show and knows you well enough to see the signs if the show is having a negative impact.
The conversations you have with this person shouldn’t only recap what happens. It is important you can also talk about your experience watching the series. This will allow the other person to hold you accountable and let you know if they think you need to take a break or stop watching (not based on their personal opinions of the show, but on your experience with watching it).
6. When are you planning on watching the show? (time of day etc.)
Although it may not seem like anything big, there is a difference between watching a show like this during the day versus at night. Think about horror movies and the difference in experience if you are surrounded by people and daytime activities while watching versus if you are home alone at night.
If you think the show in general, or specific episodes (see the list later in this article), may be difficult, consider watching during the day.
In addition, it may be a good idea to plan your viewing before other activities. This way if you have a difficult time after an episode, rather than being alone and trying to work through it, you are able to immediately go out, be around people, and either talk to them about it or turn your mind off to the show and check back into normal life.
Planning your viewings around your next counselling appointments–especially for more intense episodes–may be a wise decision.
7. Be aware of the potential triggers.
This show deals with many difficult topics. The main ones are suicide and rape, but there are many others. Everyone’s triggers are different. Here is a breakdown of the potentially triggering themes:
- Sexual assault and rape
- Domestic violence
- Drug use
- Car accidents
- Death, grief, and loss
- Verbal and emotional abuse
- Violence and fighting (including bullying violence)
- Complex PTSD related to objectification and bullying
Explicitly graphic scenes with timestamps:
Episode 9: Rape scene #1
40:20 – 41:30 (to cut the entire scene, 38:50-42:35)
And 50:20 – 51:20
Episode 12: Rape scene #2
NOTE: this episode in particular has many graphic and potentially triggering scenes. You may wish to skip it entirely if you are unsure. See the timestamps with descriptions below. Note that these time stamps are for incredibly graphic scenes, nothing is alluded to, it is all on screen.
This episode starts off with a rape scene. I suggest skipping the entire intro to be safe. The scene itself is from: 00:40-1:12
This scene is broken up with some semi-important conversation between Clay and Bryce. To avoid the entire scene, skip: 42:30-46:50
If you don’t want to miss the conversation in the middle, then skip: 42:30-43:20 (watch 43:20-45:30) skip: 45:30-46:50
There is a scene where Hannah is assessing the bruises and marks left after the rape. To avoid this scene, skip: 52:35-53:15
There is a domestic violence scene in this episode as well. Skip: 51:00-52:05
Episode 13: Suicide scene
The suicide scene takes place with Clay voicing over the actions leading up to Hannah’s suicide.
To avoid this entire scene, which is both descriptive and graphic, skip: 51:00-52:05
8. Are you prepared for triggers? How so?
It is important to be aware of what to expect from this series and to prepare for triggers. By skipping the scenes listed above, that doesn’t mean you won’t be triggered by something someone says, something that happens to Hannah, or something that happens to any of the other characters. It is important to have a trigger action plan. This could include having a friend to call, a counsellor appointment set up or counsellor on-call, self-care tools, etc…
Read the list above in #7 to know what to expect. Additionally, decide whether you plan to watch these episodes / scenes. It may help to decide this in consultation with a counsellor, guardian, or close friends. (Please do not be peer pressured. This is your own decision and should not hinge on what someone else may want to watch).
Ensure you know who you can call if you are triggered and keep helplines on hand:
- CANADA/USA: 1-800-784-2433 (1-800-SUICIDE) AND 1-800-273-8255 (1-800-273-TALK)
- CANADA/USA Deaf hotline: 1-800-799-4889 (texting available)
- MEXICO: 525-510-2550
- AUSTRALIA: 13 11 14
- NEW ZEALAND: 09 5222 999 (within Auckland) AND 0800 543 354 (outside Auckland)
- UK/SCOTLAND: 08457 90 90 90
- IRELAND: 1-800-247-100 OR text the word HELP to 51444
- SOUTH AFRICA: 0861 322 322
- HELPLINES WORLDWIDE: http://www.befrienders.org
- For more resources, visit: liberomagazine.com/resources
9. Have check-in points.
It is important to have check-in points so you can reassess your emotional state, your reasons for continuing to watch, and how the show is affecting you.
I suggest checking in at the end of each episode, and, if you are on episode 9, 12, or 13, check-in after every scene and especially before any of the scene timestamps listed in #7.
10. You do not need to finish. Stop if it is too much.
Remember, 13 Reasons Why is just a show. You can stop at any time. Don’t push yourself; you do not need to “get through it” and you certainly should not aim to finish it if you think it is harmful to your mental/emotional state.
- Watch the special feature first (it’s listed in the “Episodes & More” section under “Trailers”). This will give you an idea of exactly what to expect and why they chose to show things they did. If you don’t want spoilers, still watch this episode once you’re done the show.
If you are a teacher, parent, youth leader, etc, watching the special feature is a must.
- Journal as you watch. This is a great way to stay mindful of your emotional state and how the show may be affecting you. A journal can also come in handy to review with a counsellor and/or guardian to help you learn more about yourself and your triggers.
- Have at least one counselling appointment set up for afterwards. Especially if you’ve chosen to watch episodes 12 and 13, have an appointment already set up just in case you do need to talk to a professional about it. Better to have an appointment and realize you don’t have much to talk about than to realize you need an appointment and now have to wait to get in.
In closing, there are a just a few reminders I want to share for those who do choose to watch the series.
1. It’s OK to not be OK, but tell someone about it. As her mom says in the show, Hannah’s secrets killed her. If you are struggling, don’t keep it inside. I realize that in many ways Hannah did try to reach out for support, and she wasn’t successful. This does not mean you will not be able to find help. What happens in this show to Hannah (or any of the other characters) does not determine what may or may not happen to you. Your story is not Hannah’s story.
2. There is hope for mental health amidst suffering. There isn’t much talk specifically about mental health or mental struggles in this show. The truth is depression and suicidality are all signs of being mentally unwell. The good news is there’s hope. You can live with and even heal from mental illness. There is always hope for you.
3. You are not alone. Though it may seem like many people didn’t miss Hannah, or even resented her after death, this doesn’t mean the same is true for you. As with Hannah, there are people who love and care for you, even if they don’t say it or don’t know how to show it. You are not alone; you are noticed and you most certainly would be missed.
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Please remember that everyone is going to have different experiences–some more personal than others. Please be mindful and respectful of this in the comments and in general while engaging in any discussion around 13 Reasons Why.
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