'13 Reasons Why' Writer Defends The Graphic Depiction Of Hannah's Death

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While 13 Reasons Why has been praised for its unapologetic look at some difficult issues, some believe that it does more harm than good. 

Various mental health charities have warned vulnerable people against watching it, with some arguing that it glamorises suicide, and gives an inaccurate portrayal of depression.

With the scene which depicts Hannah’s suicide (in graphic detail), a particular target for criticism, one of the writers on the show has spoken out to defend it.

In a Vanity Fair op-ed, Nic Sheff explains how his own experiences with self-harm convinced him that showing the suicide was the right decision.

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As he wrote:

“From the very beginning, I agreed that we should depict the suicide with as much detail and accuracy as possible. I even argued for it — relating the story of my own suicide attempt to the other writers. 

While my reasons for ending my life were far different from the protagonist’s of 13 Reasons Why, there were some similarities. We both experienced a feeling of complete and utter defeat. Circumstances — some extreme and some quotidian — compiled to back us up against a wall with the feeling that nothing we ever did could ever repair the damage done, and that all last traces of hope had been blotted out completely.” 

Sheff explained that when he decided to take his own life, he had a sudden memory of a woman who he once met in rehab. She had herself survived a suicide attempt, and shared her own harrowing story to explain that “suicide is never peaceful and painless, but instead an excruciating, violent end to all hopes and dreams and possibilities for the future”. 

He explains that this woman’s story saved his life (“[it] showed me was that jumping from the building isn’t the end of pain: it’s only the beginning of a still yet more unimaginable pain to come.”), and inspired him to depict Hannah’s death as realistically as possible:

“It seemed to me the perfect opportunity to show what an actual suicide really looks like — to dispel the myth of the quiet drifting off, and to make viewers face the reality of what happens.

It overwhelmingly seems to me that the most irresponsible thing we could’ve done would have been not to show the death at all. In AA, they call it playing the tape: encouraging alcoholics to really think through in detail the exact sequence of events that will occur after relapse. It’s the same thing with suicide. To play the tape through is to see the ultimate reality that suicide is not a relief at all — it’s a screaming, agonizing, horror… So I stand behind what we did 100 percent.

I know it was right, because my own life was saved when the truth of suicide was finally held up for me to see in all its horror — and reality.” 

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Sheff added:

“When it comes to suicide, I believe the message should be exactly the same. Facing these issues head-on—talking about them, being open about them—will always be our best defense against losing another life. I’m proud to be a part of a television series that is forcing us to have these conversations, because silence really does equal death. We need to keep talking, keep sharing, and keep showing the realities of what teens in our society are dealing with every day. To do anything else would be not only irresponsible, but dangerous.” 

You can read Nic’s full article over at Vanity Fair.

Let us know if you agree in the comments! 

Images via Netflix

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