13 reasons why we should all be talking about Hannah Baker
We should all be talking about Hannah Baker…
It has been a while since watching a program on the telly box has had such a profound effect on me. I’ve just finished watching the second season of 13 Reasons Why, a Netflix original series. It revolves around a handful of main characters from last season. Mostly the fallout from a young girl’s suicide. Hannah Baker’s death had a profound effect on everyone around her. Those who knew her and think they knew her are taken on a roller coaster of events and revelations which change their outlooks on life for ever.
We should all be talking about Hannah Baker. Why? I hear you cry – it’s a Hollywoodised version setup of an American high school microcosm where everything is exaggerated, and blown out of proportion.
Isn’t it? I’ll let you make your own mind up after reading this post.
I’m a nineties girl. My teenage years were spent trying to occupy my time, actually talking to people on a dial up telephone. Hoping that the arrangements I’d made with my friends on a Friday afternoon at school would come to fruition on a Saturday. Mobile phones were huge, bricks in the nineties. They had an aerial, and they were worth more than platinum so rarer than white gold. The internet was invented, but a computer in your home was a rarity. So if we went out and got drunk on a Saturday night, it was whispered about but there was no solid evidence.
I kept my fair share of secrets as a teenager, especially from my parents because in part I felt like all their hopes and dreams rested within me, and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Mam found cigarettes in my room, they were never mine. She never found the condoms I never used in that same drawer. She never knew the full Saturday night story, we could edit because she wasn’t there. But there was no fear of a photo, or even worse a Live video turning up on Facebook to shame me or any one of my friends. It was a different age.
Times have changed. The world is now a much smaller place. Social networking has made our lives so visible, and easily intruded upon. It’s nothing to take a million selfies before going out, adjusting your trout pout and cleavage for maximum effect. We would never have been constantly shamed, anonymous comments can’t be made on a rumor. If you wanted to confront someone it was face to face, not behind a screen. And in this brand new world of transparency, everyone can be vulnerable to abuse. No matter who you are.
Let’s talk about Hannah
Hannah Baker is a 16 year old American school girl shamed into a no win situation where she feels the only plausible way out is to end her young life. This isn’t applicable to us. Isn’t it? Teen suicide is increasing year upon year. According to The Samaritans (statistics included). It is peaking at a 14 year high according to The Express, but it is hitting our news less and less. Bridgend was hit by a crop of suicidal teens in 2008. We have a problem. A very valid problem which needs addressing now.
What drives a young adult to feel that they have no way out but to end their lives?
Being a teenager is tough. Raging hormones, massive insecurities, no direction, add to the mix the complexities of knowing where you fit in this world, fiding your feet, beginning to know who you are with your innocent experimentation being broadcast. There laid bare for the world to see, worse for your peers to see, is your newly developed life. Your mistakes, are no longer private. Teens are tagged, commented upon by people judging without context. Dosed with the need for all young adults to fit in, it can be lethal. A proper snowball effect.
We are all such a complex beautiful mess of wires, thought processes, attitudes and opinions. One context-less Facebook comment can ignite a spark that can have a profound effect on the rest of your life. Now I’m no psychologist, but I have been a teen, and now I’m mother to one. And I’m coming at this as a mum who wants to protect, and do my best for my girl. Can we blame everything on Social media?
No we can’t.
The secret teen
The internet is lots of fun. Multiway Facetime, Whatsapp and Snapchat, are amazing, and I’m still learning at 40. But, they can also be used for harm.
Young adults need to know that their life doesn’t revolve around their phone (but have you ever tried to confiscate one? WOW). Their life isn’t driven around how many Instagram likes they get, or how many friends they have on Facebook. They need to know how precious they are without the need for little hearts on their Facebook posts.
Everyone makes mistakes.
Now they’re a lot more public, and it is having an effect on teens mental health. You can’t watch what their doing on their phones, who they’re talking to, what they’re sending. But you can have an honest chat about this. Teenagers are inherently secretive. They will walk about carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders and expressing their angst in sullen weeks of sulking. Or in an unexpected fit of rage which knocks you for six.
In this adult world, all I can think to do is talk about it to Cara, my daughter, in an adult fashion. Complete advocate of using your Social Media like an extension of yourself, be polite, be kind and be yourself. But how do you deal with keyboard warriors? There are always going to be those people who feel it’s ok to just type whatever they want about anyone. They spew their toxic vitriol and spite in public for kicks in a public forum. Just because they can.
There will always be those people who feel brave anonymously, who will happily type hate without a conscience. People who troll and prey on other people’s misery. They’ve always been there – but now they have a very visible platform.
There doesn’t need to be a modicum of truth in anything you post on a Social Network. And that fans a flame to ignite the fiercest fires. Even in this day and age of Facebook Warriors, the truth always comes out. The police have no jurisdiction over these people, but times are changing, and an ip address will soon be as incriminating as a finger print.
We have to be so, so careful about the words we use, the context it’s posted under. It can have an all consuming effect on someone who is already suffering, and on the people around them.
So, why do we need to be talking about Hannah Baker?
Because dear reader, we love our kids. I can’t imagine a moment in my life where my daughter isn’t around. She’s my friend, and cheif mischief maker. I listen to her talk about her friends. She worries about them like a good friend. Suicide has a fall out. Any loss does. And it’s not one of the easiest things to talk about with your baby. The little girl or boy you’ve held to your breast at 3am, held when they were starting to walk. Cleaned up their tears and wiped blood of their knees when they’ve fallen down. Depression and Suicide is a hidden killer, and sentimentality does not belong here. Sensitivity does. I found this handy guide on the BBC website which I’ve shared with my daughter. I thought you may find it useful.
If your teenager talks about it, it may be shocking. But please, please listen. It’s an honor for them to let you in to their private thoughts. I would rather know, as frightening as it is, that these feelings are floating about my baby’s head. It’s not a taboo subject, and so much help and information is available. It’s scary for a mum or a dad, but if your child is struggling, you are the best person to help them. Be prepared though that you may never know the root cause of these feelings. Don’t spend hours antagonizing over what you did wrong in your parenting skills. What is important is tomorrow, the day after and the days after that. Because the sun will still set and come up every day.
Everyone should be talking about Hannah Baker. Never has a TV series made me realise something so urgently. I have a lot of homework to do myself on this subject, but I will make time to learn. I think we all need to.