Psychiatric Labels Dr Caroline Leaf Season 2, Episode 6



6 Mental Health Issues in Season 2 of '13 Reasons Why,' According to Professionals

Is the popular Netflix series helping or hurting the conversation around mental health?

By Brianna Majsiak

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Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) testifies in court regarding sexual assault.
Jessica Davis (Alisha Boe) testifies in court regarding sexual assault.
Beth Dubber/Netflix/Everett Collection

When Netflix released the second season of13 Reasons Whyin May, it brought as many mental health issues — if not more — to the forefront as the first season. And overall, the audience reach was phenomenal. According to Nielson data reported inVariety, the first episode of the second season had more than 6 million U.S. viewers within the first three days of its release. That’s enough to fill an entire football stadium 60 times over.

The series, based on the bestselling Jay Asher novel of the same name, follows the suicide of high schooler Hannah Baker and the cassette tapes she left behind for 13 people. While the first season largely focuses on Hannah’s story in particular by diving into each tape, the second season chronicles the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide through testimonies during a court case against the school. Using this tactic, the second season tackles various new mental health issues by using the characters as a backdrop for topics like addiction, rape, and school violence.

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A statement released in March 2019 by Netflix explains that the producers of13 Reasons Whyfelt compelled to “create a story that could pull teens and adults together and open up really important conversations.” Following the public’s reaction to season one, they felt they had “a responsibility to support these important discussions.” Netflix has therefore started to add to the conversation by commissioning a study on the impact of the show on teens and by adding support resources in the second season.

Colleen Creighton, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), explains the evolution from season one to season two. “At first it was centered on Hannah and all of the struggles that she had gone through leading up to her final act, but seeing [in season two] that every other person around her had these variables as well ... it was pretty incredible,” she says. “I think it’s also indicative of all the different variables for mental health in America today.”

Creighton says the breadth of issues covered in season two, along with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s new data on the rise of suicide numbers in nearly every state from 1999 to 2019, shows that many different factors can contribute to a suicide.

RELATED:Anthony Bourdain Dies of Apparent Suicide at 61

As a way to continue the conversation around mental health, we rounded up the six most important conversations13 Reasons Whybrings to life in its groundbreaking second season:

1. The Need for Mental Health Resources and Places to Seek Help

One discussion that arises in season two targets the general lack of mental health resources available to the public, as well as many people's unwillingness to deal with mental health issues. In season one, school counselor Mr. Porter failed to provide Hannah with the support she needed following her sexual assault — an incident that ultimately led to her taking her own life. Season two draws on Mr. Porter’s guilt and a newfound mission to reach out to the school’s most vulnerable students, despite pushback from the school principal.

The show clearly urges schools to become more aware of these pressing mental health concerns, but many mental health organizations also expressed the need for third-party resources for the actual people who were watching the show. So in anticipation of the second season’s release, an organization called Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) created a toolkit of resources for parents, young viewers, educators, clinicians, and media that’s related to issues in the series.

“We wanted something that’s really easy to use and to navigate through, so that if you were a parent you could look right at that section and get the things that you wanted for each one of the content areas,” says Dan Reidenberg, PsyD, executive director of SAVE. “There was an extensive amount of thought put into what this was going to be and how it was going to look and who needed to be involved in it.”

Dr. Reidenberg led the effort in gathering 75 leading experts from around the world who specialize in mental health, suicide prevention, and education to create resources, tools, and guidelines to encourage positive responses to the series.

2. How Suicide Affects Everyone and Not Just One Person

Season two exclusively chronicles the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. It depicts her parents’ grief, their separation and pending divorce, the ongoing court case against the school, and the impact of her death on her friends — especially Clay.

“I think one of the things it did portray, especially with showing Hannah’s parents ... was the pressure that it wasn’t just a final act — there is this ripple effect,” says Creighton. “There are aftereffects once someone takes their own life, and I think it did show how varied the impact can be, because it looked like each person was struggling with a different aspect going into the court case.”

Creighton explains that the narrative of Hannah’s friend Alex Standall, who unsuccessfully attempted suicide in season one and as a result is coping with permanent physical disability in season two, also highlights the real-world consequences of a suicide attempt gone wrong. She believes the first season broke a lot of rules in showing the violent scene of Hannah taking her own life and didn’t carry the full responsibility of the long term impact.

“Here I think [season two] did spend a great deal of time on the longer term impact,” says Creighton. “So it’s not just a final act done; a lot of other people are harmed by this.”

RELATED:How to Survive Suicidal Thoughts

3. How Depression Can Lead to Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction

As part of new character development, former basketball star Justin Foley develops an addiction to heroin as a result of his depression from the tapes. Clay spends a significant part of season two trying to get Justin clean so that he can testify in court. As the series develops, Justin appears to be clean of drugs, testifies in court, and officially moves in with the Jensens — only to be shown secretly using again in the very last episode.

“With things like depression and substance abuse — it’s very important for adults, whether it be parents or teachers or mental health professionals, to be having conversations around those things, because I think they tend to be a bit more prevalent across schools,” says Peter Faustino, PsyD, a school psychologist and delegate of the NY Association of School Psychologists (NYASP).

Although Dr. Faustino finds some of the new issues introduced in season two to be problematic and unrealistic, he believes the storyline of depression and addiction may more accurately mimic “the kinds of things students are exposed to in schools or the topics that parents may want to consider covering.”

4. The Importance of Content and Trigger Warnings in the Media

A notable change in season two is that Netflix now has content and trigger warnings for each episode. Before an episode begins, a cast member speaks about the “real world issues” that take place in the show and offers local helpline numbers, discussion guides about depression and sexual assault, and the website 13ReasonsWhy.info. Each disclaimer ends with this statement: “Because the minute that you start talking about it, it gets easier.” In response to last season’s controversy, Netflix also added a special aftershow calledBeyond the Reasons,during which mental health professionals discuss the issues that arise in each episode.

“I think it’s great that Netflix added those components to season two ... in advance and throughout the series to help protect people,” says Reidenberg. “I think it is particularly helpful that they have the cast speaking in some of these warning videos, because that was a troublesome thing last year.”

Reidenberg emphasizes that the depiction of these issues through a television series can only be helpful if it’s done carefully, with proper warnings and resources, and expert opinions that are adhered to.

5. How Male Rape Can Impact Mental Health

The most controversial scene in season two takes place in the final episode when Tyler Down is brutally raped by three male athletes in the school bathroom. The extremely violent scene occurs on the same day Tyler returns to school wanting to make amends after receiving treatment for his social issues. Tyler doesn’t tell anyone that he was raped and heads into a downward spiral that leads him to plan a violent attack against the school.

In a statement published in May 2019 inVulture, Brian Yorkey, writer and producer of13 Reasons Why, responded to the public outrage of the scene by explaining that the show is committed to portraying truthful situations in the most “unflinching” way possible, and that the show might not be for everyone.

“When we talk about something being ‘disgusting’ or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience,” Yorkey writes. “We would rather not be confronted with it. We would rather it stay out of our consciousness … This is why victims have a hard time seeking help.” Reidenberg and Faustino both take issue with the controversial scene and describe it as being used more for “shock value.”

“I just don’t believe that it’s necessary. That doesn’t mean that the issue of rape isn’t important — it is. It’s about the presentation of it,” says Reidenberg. “The consequences of that issue — rape — are important issues to address in terms of how it plays out in [the victim’s] mental health and what their behaviors are following it. So again, it’s about the presentation of the issues rather than the content itself.”

6. How School Violence Can Stem From Mental Illness

Following Tyler’s vicious sexual assault, he sinks deeper into isolation, and his violent tendencies take hold as he prepares an attack at the school dance with his guns. Tyler’s plan is abruptly stopped when Clay confronts him at the school entrance and convinces him not to move forward with the attack.

Netflix ended up canceling its premiere party for season two hours before the event because of the Santa Fe High School shooting that left 10 people dead.

“I think there are a couple themes that are certainly appropriate when talking about schools and adolescents, and then others that seemed really sensationalized and unnecessary,” says Faustino, who watched the series with his teen daughter. “I worry that the messaging quite often is something that goes unchecked.”

“The final scene, right where a fellow student, a peer, is going to talk you out of a violent act with a gun — it’s not very realistic. But going to adults, reporting concerns like if you see something, say something — is a really important message that doesn’t really get played out or reinforced or highlighted enough in a series like this,” Faustino explains.

Why '13 Reasons Why' Season 2 Is Important

Regardless of your stance on13 Reasons Why, it’s hard to deny that the series and the second season address some very difficult mental health issues.

“I think it’s important for people to know — having talked with the people at Netflix on a regular basis, that they really do care. They do care about this issue and the issues that are facing young people today,” Reidenberg explains. “They wanted to try to do this right … [and] that doesn’t mean I agree with everything that they did, but I think that they are due some credit for being open to that.”

For now, we can only speculate what issues will be introduced and depicted in next year’s 13-episode season three, set to premiere in early summer 2019.






Video: THE GRAPEVINE | Season 2 | Ep. 47: Is Mental Illness Taboo in the African Community?

6 Mental Health Issues in Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, According to Professionals
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Date: 12.12.2018, 06:12 / Views: 43361