Forty-four thousand: a number that has torn families apart. One question rings in each of these forty-four thousand families’ ears: Why? According to the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, over 44,000 Americans commit suicide every year. Why would anyone choose to take their own life? While some leave notes, most people who commit suicide never give an answer. For many suicide is an inconceivable notion, while others can understand the sentiment. However, nobody can say they do not see suicide as a national problem that has taken the futures of the young, old, poor, and rich. Suicide isn’t pretty, and is in no way “marketable,” but Netflix has obtained yet another hit show as 13 Reasons Why becomes a classic among teens. In addition, the book the show is based on became a bestseller once again due to the immediate success of the heartbreaking television program.

The Netflix show, starring Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette, goes through the thirteen reasons that lead Katherine Langford’s character Hannah to commit suicide. The book of the same name was an also an instant success, which led to a ton of anticipation for the show’s release. The show also gained publicity by having Selena Gomez as a producer. Immediately after release, the show garnered a mix of extremely positive and negative reviews. Although the show has episodes directed by Oscar nominees and experts in film, many argued that Netflix was overly dramatizing suicide. Others didn’t like the fact that the audience was meant to sympathize with Hannah. Critics of the show have said it doesn’t work hard enough to condemn suicide and neglects to mention mental illness, but I would argue that this is a central part of the show’s magic, and that the lack of support given to Selena Gomez and Netflix is completely unwarranted.

13 Reasons Why does not try to lecture its audience on the obvious dangers of suicide; instead, it tries to help us understand Hannah’s inner thoughts. For once, the girl who kills herself isn’t the selfish antagonist. Instead, the main adversaries in the show are the bystanders and bullies who drove a person to such intense sadness. When we talk about suicide, it’s often discussed in an almost condescending nature, rather than with legitimate empathy. If anything, the show encourages us to be a more collaborative society. In fact, a large theme throughout the entire series is regret. With a central cast including over fifteen characters, every single person remembers an action they could have taken to help Hannah through her hard times. Even those who argue that 13 Reasons Why is disgusting for over-dramatizing suicide cannot deny that the show is very real. It does not attempt to sanitize the subject of suicide, but aims to create a discussion around the topic and how it relates to the social lives of our emerging teen youth.

Many still argue that the show neglects to mention mental illness. However, anyone who has actually watched it would understand that that’s incorrect. Dylan Minnette’s character Clay is shown needing multiple medications for an unnamed mental illness. Although Clay isn’t in any way suicidal, we as an audience form a deep compassion for Clay throughout the show. This furthers an important message that mental illness can truly affect anyone, not just psychopaths and “drama queens.” 13 Reasons Why uses these characters to force more discussion of suicide and mental illness into our classrooms and personal lives.

I can’t say that a TV show will change everyone’s views on suicide, but 13 Reasons Why is a start. Nobody can help those who have already passed away, but we can still work to spread further awareness. 13 Reasons Why advocates for the notion that the solution to the suicide epidemic must begin with us.