PSA: I am not a psychologist, therapist, yadda yadda yadda. This is just my opinion based off my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. (that is another post altogether, stay tuned!)
MAJOR SPOILERS. don’t read this if you are planning to watch the show 🙂
1. 13 episodes is not enough to fully highlight the phases of depression that eventually lead to thoughts of suicide/self harm.
2. Blame Game- The infliction of guilt by Hannah onto her peers, was a very dangerous play. Yes the whole show does revolves around the tapes and 17 year old minds, but it came off as “I killed myself because of you guys! ok?” maybe it was the writing or the approach, but it was cringeworthy. “a lot of you cared, just not enough” ugh.
3. Limited character development- the characters all seemed like high school archetypes. At times I felt like it was Hannah and Clay vs their very evil friends. The characters also seemed too cliché? The troubled all-star basketball prodigy, The emo coffee girl, etc.
4. No efforts to properly handle the SERIOUS issues; Rape, self-harm, and suicide are mishandled throughout the duration of the show. I was left a little concerned for what would be the majority of the viewers (teens!).
5. The floating idea that major trauma is the only cause for wanting to commit suicide- In a short 13 episodes, the viewers witnessed two rapes (one of which was the cherry on top for Hannah’s decision to end her life). I’m NOT saying that rape isn’t a reason. We all know that rape is a TERRIBLE thing to happen to anyone, I just wish the show took a different route. Suicide can be synonymous with not feeling good enough, feeling like a burden, feeling like a failure etc.
6. The sheer ignorance of Hannah’s peers. At times I was just baffled by some of the things that were said or implied by the characters who received the tapes. (BRYCE? COURTNEY?!)
7. Parents were completely in the dark- Hannah seemed to have a good relationship with her parents, but there was NO indication that her parents could sense a change in her. Yes we can fake it, yes we may not want our parents to worry about it, but parents usually know that something is up. Maybe they don’t know the issue per se, maybe they are unable to properly express how to help, but they know.
8. The school board vs Hannah’s parents- That plot line frustrated me to no end. You would think that the school would take every action possible to figure out a way to help Hannah’s parents with their needs.
9. Liberty High’s general attitude towards student deaths- When Jeff died, “don’t drink and drive” posters were plastered on every wall (this boy was on a BEER RUN, SOBER). When Hannah died, Suicide prevention posters went up. That was it.
10. Miscommunication- a lot of Hannah’s inner dialogue was valid and relatable, but at times had me pausing the episode to rub my temples. “I told him to go, but I wanted him to stay” WHAT. BUT CLAY IS GOOD ? WHAT.
11. The buildup to Hannah’s inevitable suicide- The show treats Hannah’s suicide like the focal point of the show, the big crescendo. Suicide is not meant to be exciting or looked forward to. It’s not edgy, or to be romanticized.
12. Desensitization- The old argument goes “just because we see/play/listen to graphic material doesn’t mean we will be impacted by it” but in this case I’m not so sure. The very graphic suicide and rape scenes made me uncomfortable, and triggered very dark periods of my life.
13. The counsellor- I had very mixed feelings about the school counsellor. The show pinned him as distracted and nonchalant almost. The juxtaposition between who he is and what school kids he had to deal with before Liberty High, and the counsellor he is now, is a fault on the writers’ part. He dealt with kids from the hood; how far did he go to help them? Are kids from said hood impervious to mental health issues? could the counsellor deal with suicidal kids? nope. I wanted to like him, I REALLY did, but I guess the writers wanted to pin him as the non-helpful-faux-wise counsellor.
At the end of the day, it is a cheesy Teen Drama, but these issues are so severely important to properly execute.