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The Culture of “13 Reasons Why”

By Jeanelle Jacobs

Tennessee native and 16-year-old Channing Smith ended his life last September due to cyberbullying. According to The Washington Post, Smith killed himself after being outed over the Internet for identifying as gay by his classmates.  

Smith’s father discovered his son’s body on Sept. 23. The tragedy of a young person taking their own life due to feelings of overpowering hopelessness can be devastating to the family, friends, and community of the deceased. 

Risk factors such as bullying, humiliation, family changes, and school pressure have led to suicide. The Center for Disease Control, (CDC), said that suicide is the third leading cause of death in young people ages 15 to 24.


In 2017 alone, over 5,016 males and 1,225 females between the ages of 15 and 24 committed suicide in the United States. 

Marketing senior Delissa Richards, said that there are various reasons why teens may feel suicide is their only option. She noted that it varies for different people.

“I think the leading causes of teen suicide are bullying, social media, societal pressures and the lack of safe spaces for teens to express their unfiltered feelings,” said Richards.

Joselie Laguerre, a third-year English major at Barry noted that she believed the driving force behind teen suicide is loneliness. 

“I think its loneliness. Even though we’re connected through phones, a lot of people are depressed and feel like nobody understands them,” said Laguerre. 

Sociology and criminology professor Dr. Laura Finley stated that there are various factors as to why a teen may end their own life. She noted that LGBTQ youth are more at risk because there aren’t enough services and assistance to help them. 

“Another factor is the lack of mental health and counseling in schools,” Finley said.

She also stated that easy access to guns plays a major role in the spike of suicide rates in men. 

Also, suicide contagion –thoughts of suicide after media exposure- is always a cause of concern. After the release of popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why,” The Atlantic, a popular media site, stated that Google searches relating to suicide increased significantly. 

Australian actress Katherine Langford as Hannah Baker

In fact, this popular show has heightened suicide awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal idealization

According to CNN Health, mental health experts expressed concerns about the show posing risks to young people who may have suicidal thoughts. 

On the other hand, some say that the show provides a platform for suicide risks to be discussed with young people.

 The series follows the story of a teenager, Hannah Baker, who leaves behind 13 audio recordings on cassette tapes after she ended her life. Each recording is addressed to a person whom she said played a role in her decision to kill herself. 

Clifton Jones, political science and history senior at Barry said that he believes the TV show can be a contributing factor as to why the suicide rates have spiked. He noted that it can negatively prompt those who already possess suicidal thoughts. 

Dylan Minnette (Clay Jensen) with Hannah's Tapes *Photo Courtesy of google images*

“I do believe the show could be a trigger for those who may have already mustered thoughts of suicide or have attempted it,” said Jones. 

Students are encouraged to seek help if they harbor suicidal thoughts from a suicide prevention hotline. 

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline helps those contemplating suicide through a network of crisis centers. And, they provide information on taking suicide precautions.

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