If, like me, you have not finished watching the Netflix Original “13 Reasons Why” because you found the themes too confronting, the main character rather self-centred and most of the scenes overly dramatic, I will spare you thirteen precious hours of your life and tell you how the series ends: Clay Jensen realises that he could have prevented Hannah Baker’s suicide if he had only been brave enough to admit his feelings for her.
What a ridiculous notion, would you not agree?
And yet, on second thoughts, the author may have a point.
In childhood, we have a strong bond with our parents, for whom our physical and mental well-being is a priority.
In later adulthood, we can reasonably expect to closely bond with a long-term partner, whose physical and mental well-being is a priority for us and vice versa.
But what about teenagers?
During our teenage years and early adulthood, we drift away from the bonds of our family (i.e. parents and siblings), but are too young to create a family of our own (i.e. to marry and have children). These years are tumultuous and exciting, but also (by default) lonely.
It is precisely this that puts teenagers at a greater risk of mental health issues: the fact that they are mature enough to seek independence from their parents and siblings, but not yet mature enough to form healthy relationships of their own. Thus, when they feel the need to turn to someone, they may not feel that there is anyone available to them.
So even if the idea that other people are responsible for your life choices is intrinsically flawed, “13 Reasons Why” nonetheless powerfully conveys an important message:
Teenagers have a responsibility to look out for each other, because even though we are alone in this business of growing up, we are doing it alongside one another.