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What Therapists are Saying About 13 Reasons Why

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I’m feeling inspired. Consider this a bonus blog. Usually, I keep it to my “expertise” and I suppose in a way I still am, but I have something that I feel needs to be put out there. And so, without further ado, I shall step onto my soapbox.

I’ve been watching 13 reasons why. I have been so excited for this miniseries! I actually downloaded this book on tape four years ago when I was traveling for a seminar. Then I read it. Then I read it again. I loved it. I cried, I had flashbacks to those godawful teenage years, I identified with human pain. It was an intense book. And now the miniseries has popped up.

I’m seeing web traffic about this everywhere.

Is it “triggering?” Yes. It’s mostly intensely emotional. There are a couple of hallucinatons that last a couple of seconds that involve some blood. It’s deep and definitely not a relax and zone out show.

AND IT IS STARTING CRITICAL CONVERSATIONS.

If you are a parent, teacher, or therapist, it is irresponsible not to watch this show. If you are a human being, I think you should see it. See it, and have the conversations. There are so many undertones: social responsibility, personal accountability, human pain, the complexities of teenage life (or life in general), survivors of loss and grief, the damage that secrets can do, the pain in trying to deal with things on your own (as evidenced not only by Hannah, but by the protagonist), the frustrations that living an inauthentic life can lead to, communication (or lack thereof), even the signs and symptoms of depression or suicide. I could probably find thirty other topics. I think it is beautiful that the silence is lifting.

It talks about the loneliness that one, teen or otherwise, can feel when surrounded by people. About how we all have inner lives that nobody knows about. How our actions and words at all times have power. How we can be surrounded by people ready and willing to listen and not be present enough to realize this. How important it is that those who are ready and willing to listen speak up and say so because we may not be in a place to notice. How the pain can get so bad that one can get to the place of  not wanting to exist anymore. It accurately portrays how painful life is for a teenager, yes, but I think it accurately portrays how painful life is for any of us. The drama doesn’t stop after high school. “Kids” aren’t mean, “people” are mean. It talks about paying attention to eachother.

I want you to know what the therapists are saying. They’re saying this show glorifies suicide, that it sends the wrong message, that they’re afraid of spikes in teenaged suicides now, that clients don’t know how to process this, that “so many clients are coming in upset.” They are saying that you are too fragile to handle this. It makes me mad.

Why?

Because it seriously underestimates YOU.

My clients, while hurting, are immensely strong, resilient human beings. I do not believe that, if you aren’t already on the verge of suicide, that a television show is going to put you there. Not only that, avoiding a topic because it’s provocative or may make us feel something is exactly what gets us here in the first place!

I trust my clients.

I trust them to do the work. I trust them to be resilient. I trust them to reach out if they are struggling and not feeling resilient. And I want my clients to trust themselves. What kind of message does it send if we say “this is big. Avoid it. You can’t handle it?!” or put a trigger warning on it? When you’re struggling everything needs a trigger warning! I think, more importantly, we need to say “I trust you. And I am here if you need help processing this.”

Our clients aren’t fragile. You aren’t fragile if you’re struggling. And judging by the web traffic, you aren’t alone if you are. Watch the show- and TV show or not, have the hard conversations. Trust yourself and trust each other.

*off soapbox*