This article discusses suicide. If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide please call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. They are very nice people and really do help. You can also Text “START” to 741741 or chat online with someone at the Lifeline Crisis Chat.
Trigger Warning: The topics of suicide and rape are discussed in this article (nothing graphic is discussed though, just the topics are addressed), you may want to avoid reading it if those topics might trigger you.
Note: I am not suicidal right now.
I was not suicidal before I got PTSD in 2007. Since getting PTSD, however, I have been frequently suicidal, sometimes every day for many months at a time, as a direct result of the symptoms of this mental injury/illness.
Some say 13 Reasons Why helps bring awareness to the important issue of suicide, and others say it is potentially harmful to anyone vulnerable to suicide. I have a strong tendency to, perhaps unwisely at times, turn myself into a guinea pig and do social/psychological experiments on myself, so I decided to watch 13 Reasons Why and see how it affects me, someone who has strong suicidal tendencies due to PTSD. I skipped the suicide scene but watched the rest.
After watching all the episodes my assessment is that although there were positive effects on me here and there throughout the series, the potential negative consequences outweigh them.
I strongly recommend anyone who struggles with suicidal feelings, has been sexually assaulted, has PTSD, suffers from depression or is in any other way vulnerable to suicide really spend some time seriously considering whether it’s a good idea to watch 13 Reasons Why. The two rape scenes and suicide scene are not suitable for many audiences. If you would be triggered – meaning witnessing these and many other traumatic incidents could affect your nervous system bringing up a trauma responses and perhaps depression as well – it may best for your mental health to make the choice to steer clear.
If you do decide to watch the series, follow the guidelines in this article to give yourself time and resources to process the material as it is very heavy and condensed: Netflix 13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider
I think that the producers of 13 Reasons Why could have preserved and even enhanced the positive effects that I experienced, and even retained the entertainment value, while eliminating the negative effects. Actually they could do that now, and I honestly think they should take it off the air, add the necessary elements and re-release it. As for how the topic is addressed now in the show, I agree with the statement made by psychiatrist Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, president of the Child Mind Institute: “This show should be pulled off the air immediately.” (source)
So I’m going to list 10 ways 13 Reasons Why affected me positively and 13 ways it affected me negatively and then in the next article list a number of things I think the producers should do to make the series healthy and helpful.
We really do need more intelligent, open, de-stigmatizing conversations around suicide, but they should be responsible and sensitive to vulnerable populations.
The 10 Positive Effects:
Note that a lot of these positives are happening simultaneously with negative results so some of these descriptions are mixed. Also, I flip flopped a lot between being affected positively and negatively so if something seems contradictory it’s because I could have opposite reactions at different times in the series.
My experience was positive after Episode 1 because up to that point it was something my mind could process and handle and observing the issues I was facing inside myself in a format outside myself was beneficial.
1. The Observer’s Mind.
After watching the first Episode, at first it decreased my suicidality by turning on my rational, neutral observer mind. This relatively short-lived effect was definitely a positive aspect of watching the show for me, even if it didn’t last long.
The way it works is: When something that is internal to oneself is exteriorized outside, it can help bring objectivity, neutrality, observations, insights, rational thinking, logic, consideration, observation, reflection, reasoning, distance and perspective. This can happen when you take your thoughts and write them down on a piece of paper. This can happen if you videotape yourself talking about your emotions and then watch the videotape.
Becoming the Observer uses a different part of the brain than the part that is being used in the midst of being suicidal. It uses the higher brain which is less reactionary and impulsive than the part that is involved in feeling suicidal.
I’ve actually used this method before to get out of being suicidal. In 2011 I took Video Diaries of myself talking about my struggles feeling suicidal. The next day or a couple days later I would watch the video and I actually ended up being able to exit the state of being suicidal by the act of repeatedly taking on a role that’s external to that state.
One example of the engagement of my observer’s mind: Immediately after watching the first episode, I wrote in my notes that “I do NOT like the fact that Hannah Baker gains love, power, notoriety, understanding, care and attention via her suicide.” But I said (at this early in the series) this depiction did not influence me to believe I would gain all those things. But I could see how that desire has been part of my own suicidality in the past. I remembered a time when I did want to have more love and care and that was a deep issue under my feeling suicidal. More accurately, I felt angry at not being cared about and I was suicidal because of the anger; turning it against myself. And I also desired to get back at them, and to punish them, for not being caring.
Right after Episode 1, I felt that watching this whole dynamic, as well as other aspects of being suicidal, occur outside myself decreased my feelings of suicidality by turning on the observational mind. This response is a positive response. But this only lasted maybe a couple hours after the first Episode and came back again once later on regarding the rape scenes.
2. Emotional Awareness and De-Repression.
When watching the first Episode I became more emotional. Because there weren’t too many traumatic incidents shown yet, it helped me to bring up and be aware of my own feelings more, which decreased my suicidality by de-repressing some of my feelings. Some feelings have more power over you when they are being repressed so this eased the suicidal state.
After more difficult scenes, unresolved traumas upon more traumas, confusing troubling social interactions, it was a little bit too much to really help me get in tune with my own emotions anymore. It just kind of turned into more of a triggering situation than an understanding of my emotions situation. So this benefit also was only really present during and after the first episode.
Becoming drawn into and immersed in the story took me away from my own life concerns and suicidal feelings. After Episode 6 I wrote: “Getting immersed in the story takes me away from my own suicidal feelings, at least for now.” I guess this could happen with any movie I found myself interested in the plot development and getting involved in the story.
I then watched Episodes 6-9 which was up and down. After episode 9, however, my suicidality was reduced again. I was feeling some neutral or positive effects:
4. More Aware of My Own Healthy Parts.
Distancing myself from characters’ flaws reduced suicidal feelings temporarily.
“I feel a little sad but not as much as before. First of all, Hannah is stupid and that’s becoming clear. She no longer seems like someone I want to identify with. In fact, they are all really stupid.
“The issues seem more and more trivial and blown out of proportion as it goes on. There are so many stupid things happening that make no sense. The fact of it just being entertainment is taking over from the emotional connection to anyone and anything happening. I think that this would not happen if I was a teenager though.
“The themes of keeping quiet from adults, having too much drama and angst are getting old. Although, if I was a teenager this would be my daily reality and my everyday world so these events would likely not be getting old.
“I don’t feel connected anymore to suicide as being glamorous or anything but part of something created for entertainment.
“I don’t feel as identified with Hannah as I did before.”
Note that I became numb after the rape scene because of my own experiences. So my whole reaction was generally more numb and separated from the people and the theme.
“The rape scene was bad but I’m not too affected by it. Maybe I’m tired and cut off from my own rape-like experience so totally that it doesn’t matter.
“I feel jaded. It seems strange that so many different people can betray other people. It seems unrealistic that every single person would be so mean. It’s so unrealistic I am disconnecting from it now.”
I think I was partly feeling healthier and identifying with my “normal” self in response to the “stupid” show, and I was also partly numbing myself which is part of PTSD and a way to cope – it’s a sign that I’ve become triggered too many times and my system is shutting down in response.
I do think it’s positive to begin to think – “I’m not as bad as this person. I have this other way of thinking than they have. I wouldn’t be like they are. I would try this instead. I would ask for help.” That does help, but that distance and differentiation didn’t last very long because the scenes were so triggering that I ended up totally identifying with the characters who were raped, and even Clay, who was in shock, and the grief of the parents. There were so many things to identify with that overall I identified strongly with the characters and did not tune into my healthy mind much.
5. Feeling Temporarily Repelled By Suicide
“Suicide seems more real to me. At first, after Episode 4, it feeling so real made me feel more like doing it. I felt more connected and more inclined towards it. Now, it makes me much more repelled by it. I used to tell my boyfriend all the time, “I want to die. I want to kill myself.” Now, I won’t. I’ll say instead, “I feel insanely frustrated! I hate myself right now. I hate life! Life sucks. Everything is shit. I’m going crazy! It’s infuriating! I feel lost. I don’t how to solve this and it’s driving me crazy!” But I probably will not use the words “I want to die,” or “I want to kill myself,” again. Because now I know what that actually means, like in reality.
“Even though I haven’t watched the suicide itself and don’t intend to, the rest of the film is realistic enough to make me reconsider using this kind of death language so much of the time.
“Although I felt suicidal many times, I never really intended to kill myself. It was imaginary. Right now I’m thinking that making the situations around suicide more real is a good strategy. Making the suicide itself real is not a good idea, because it’s too instructional. But making the people and experiences around it real seems good to me. ”
Huge caveat about Realistic portrayal – Realistic portrayal is both good and bad. This is why I kept flip flopping in my response to it. The issue here is this: When I’m in a normal state of consciousness, watching something that is realistic regarding suicide repels me from it, because of my state of awareness, lucidity and sense of being myself. The main problem is this: If I ever happen to go past this normal state of consciousness and into more of an altered state of consciousness that is typical of whenever I’ve been close to actually intending to commit suicide, I will not be lucid, rational or myself anymore. In this state of mind, the realistic portrayal may have a totally different effect on me. It actually might make me more likely to do it because I have more personal connection to it and experience with it now because of immersing myself in this series.
This is one reason why there are benefits and liabilities from watching the exact same scenes. From the state of consciousness I’m in right now, the normal waking state of consciousness, I can’t imagine myself doing anything like what Hannah did and the realistic nature of it makes me want to push it away. I don’t want to talk about death or killing myself at all anymore. It has reduced my use of death language and repelled me from the ideas around killing myself.
But, there is another part of my brain, one that is dormant at the moment, one that is more primitive, instinctive and reactive, that absorbed that information and now feels distinctly closer to suicide due to having it portrayed realistically. If I go into the altered state of consciousness I enter while very suicidal, it’s like walking through a door into a different world. In that world, there are completely different rules. The rules of the world I’m in right now do not apply anymore. Perceptions of reality, beliefs, thoughts, emotions — everything changes. The other part of my brain that is now feeling closer to suicide is the only part running the show at that time. And the one thing that you don’t want when you walk through that door is any understanding of the procedures to kill yourself and anything that makes it more realistic, closer to yourself, more familiar and in any possible way positive.
6. I’m Not Alone.
Even though I was triggered to feel numb and heavy (which is a negative response), I also had a positive response to watching the rape scene with Jessica.
When I first saw this scene I felt relieved and calm. I felt like — I’m not the only one that happened to. I am sure that others were triggered. But I just felt sad, heavy and calm. For some reason the sense of not being alone was the more powerful sense rather than reliving the trauma.
I think I had this positive response because of how they led up to the rape scene by showing little bits of the scene beforehand. From a psychological standpoint that was very intelligent. It allowed the viewer to see it slowly and in pieces. This is actually a technique in trauma therapy called titration, which breaks and experience parts and addresses it little by little bit. The film even had other events in between which is great because it gives the time for the brain to process each small piece. That’s why the scene affected me by making me feel kinship, connection and calm.
The heaviness was the effect of being triggered and being reminded of how heavy my body felt after the incident for couple of days. So I didn’t’ make it through without being triggered. But the way that they shot this scene was about the least triggering way they could have done it while still showing it. (Note that they didn’t really do this smart technique with Hannah’s rape scene and that was much more triggering. Also, they did not have to show the actual rape – little snippets implying or partially showing what happened and then her authentic emotional reaction would be plenty.)
7. Gain Important Insight Into What Drives My Suicidality.
The second way the realistic depictions around rape (not the rape scenes themselves necessarily but the emotional responses) helped me was that this was the first time I understood how repressed memories of this experience were such a powerful driving force behind my own feelings of wanting to commit suicide. I wrote, “I think that this really hits very close to home in so many scenes. I was not aware of how much my bad sexual experience was affecting my suicidal thoughts and feelings until some emotions started coming up. With the scene with Jessica I felt nothing, numbed out. Everything was still repressed. But with Hannah I’m starting to remember and I realize that on a certain level I’ve relived being raped hundreds of times. This means that on a certain level my system believes it’s been raped hundreds of times. So this now starts to make sense of why I become really suicidal and terrified at the thought of my boyfriend wanting to be close or even just him being around me. I’m also realizing that repressed memories of trauma play a huge role in wanting to commit suicide. They make you feel so confused and it’s like they become a force pushing you toward suicide and you’re just trying to hold on. A lot of the force is just buried memories.”
I think that this insight might have happened without the actual rape being shown. It’s more from the fact that her emotional response afterwards was authentic. I don’t think I had to relive the rape and be triggered by that in order to get this insight. I don’t like reliving something like that by watching it and I don’t think that’s positive.
But having an insight into one of the reasons I’m suicidal, the reason that I never, ever suspected, is really useful to me. I don’t know if I would have put the pieces together without watching this series. I now understand that it actually affected me. I understand that my feeling of numbness is just a defense and that I actually really was affected by it. I thought I wasn’t affected at all. I told therapists that it didn’t affect me and wasn’t rape at all – to defend myself from feeling. One therapist and I argued as she said it was rape and I vehemently disagreed with her – I said it absolutely was not. I thought that I was suicidal for other reasons and never would think that incident would have that effect on me. But I really was deeply affected and strangely enough it has a role in why I feel suicidal. This insight is going to be a big piece of my own healing journey. If I remember to bring it up during therapy and if we can do some effective work on it, it might help me to reduce how much I feel suicidal.
8. Learn to Recognize the Signs
Another really helpful thing was this series is educational in that it helps people analyze the signs of suicide.
There were numerous signs that Hannah was suicidal. Long before Hannah actually became really suicidal she was writing about themes of herself leaving. Her mentality towards death and self-erasure was being developed over time and there were actually signs. I think it’s really good if more people are trained and educated to see all the signs. It would help a lot if they would explain each sign clearly after each episode though, because they go by really quickly and probably most people wouldn’t pick up on them without help.
9. Social Connection
One time I felt less suicidal because I felt my social engagement brain more turned on by watching all the social interactions between the characters. “To be honest, I feel hope. Because watching all these people interact turn on social engagement and I feel hope.” This could happen from any movie by the way, but having them interacting and discussing issues around suicide – I like the discussion to be out in the open, I think that’s healthy to see. Of course so much of the time the adults were clueless so there’s a lot more discussion that could have been had but the amount that was had did have a positive effect on me at one point.
10. Perceiving True Quantity and Effect of Trauma in My Life.
After watching the whole series,
“I am feeling more suicidal now. The intensity is higher after reliving my traumas in the show. The things she experienced of losing love more than once, being betrayed more than once, difficult sexual experiences… those are also behind my feelings so intensifies them to watch.
“But it’s also revealing things to me. By looking from outside I can see and count all the things I’ve lost and all the trauma I endured. My suicidality is really, really high right now but some part of me is also more settled because it can see why. I never really quantified everything I’ve been through until now. By observing outside myself I can see every single incident that she went through in which she was hurt, abandoned, neglected, betrayed, misunderstood, raped, not cared about. Me too. I also had all those things happen to me. Suddenly it all makes sense! It actually makes sense that I would be suicidal after all this stuff. This is the first time I ever was far enough outside to perceive the accumulation of everything I’ve gone through and understand that it definitely makes sense that it would have an effect on me that would be pretty powerful.”
Seeing how something is not your fault, how so many people did so many things and they all actually impacted you for real – this is very healing. It’s not – “I’m crazy because I’m feeling all these crazy things, it makes no sense why I’d feel suicidal, what possibly could be wrong with me?” It’s – “wow, all those things people did to me were totally messed up, and it makes total sense I’d be having trouble right now. Yes, it’s the PTSD that is inside me now causing me to feel suicidal, not the people around me now who I’m projecting onto. But it was the perpetrators in the past who caused the PTSD and everything they did had a real impact on my mental health.”
I think it’s positive when I get enough perspective that something can shift inside my brain from – I am going to punish/harm/take this out on myself – to – I see that the people who hurt me are the ones who actually need punishing, not me. Now, to heal I need to go a lot farther than this – into understanding them and their experience, coming to terms with what happened, seeing what the trauma did clearly, gaining more support and healing tools etc. But just thinking – why should I take all this out on ME when I am not the perpetrator? shows a shift towards more self-esteem, insight and perspective – a direction that could shift me away from suicide.
Note about the Positive Results – I realize now that two of these, 3 and 9, could be derived from watching any engaging story, so they don’t carry much weight in the list.
The 13 Negative Effects (AKA The 13 Reasons Why Not):
After watching the entire series, I did think more about real solutions to my tendency, due to PTSD, to feel suicidal. But I also was more depressed, more sad, more bleak and despondent about life in general. I gained valuable insights and made valuable observations about my life that will help me heal. But I also feel closer to suicide, I feel like suicide is less serious, and I have a how-to manual for one method of committing suicide.
I am certainly not happy with the first 3 effects which I think are the worst of all the negative effects in the list (1-3 are the Big Top Three Negative Effects for me):
1. Suicide Seems More Realistic to Me.
It made suicide feel closer, more real, more true, more in my life, more realistic and more attainable. I see suicide as a real thing you can do, not just an imaginary thing.
2. Suicide Seems Trivial.
They trivialized suicide and made it seem less serious than it is. They did this by putting little flowers in the intro, more whimsical music that really should be used, and in general it just felt less serious to me than it actually is.
3. Suicide Seems Easier / I Possess How-to Knowledge Now.
They made the act of suicide more accessible and easier. They gave an instructional how-to on suicide. I don’t want anything to do with any instructions in my normal state of consciousness but if my state of mind were to dramatically change as it does when you’re suicidal, that instruction manual would definitely be dangerous. More ease of taking action. I feel more connected to the act of suicide than I had felt before. I felt a deepening of the connection between all the emotions I feel when I’m suicidal and the actual taking of the action. My knowledge of how to commit suicide is greater now. I now have more ease of access to a method for committing suicide. (I didn’t watch the suicide scene but I read YouTube comments and also there were some images of her dead that were depicted before the scene (I had no way of knowing so couldn’t skip them) and I saw her buying razors so I did piece it all together enough to give me the facts about how she did it even without watching it. If I had watched it, this effect might be a lot stronger.)
4. I Have More Suicidal Emotions.
I wrote after the entire series: “The series has left me disturbed. I feel more cut off from the world, more dissociated, more isolated, more depressed, more in touch with the destabilizing undercurrent of my own unresolved traumas as well as those I witnessed in the series. It increased my connection to the emotions I feel when I’m suicidal. I can identify strongly with Hannah’s despair, distress, pain, depression, aloneness, despondency, trauma and hopelessness and I feel more of those emotions now. I also identify with Clay’s grief, shock and trauma from witnessing various events.”
I wrote after Episode 6: “I feel very sad. I don’t feel more suicidal but I feel sad for Hannah. I was bullied a lot but forgot about it. I feel reminded of what it felt like. I feel the same sense of hopelessness around ever finding a guy who is kind. I went through such similar things with guys too. I think I’m triggered but didn’t really notice due to being sucked into the story and the entertainment aspect of it. I feel the same sense of confusion as during times when I felt really alone. I feel really alone. There is so much that hits home.” This shows an increase in feelings of aloneness, sadness, hopelessness, depression, and confusion.
It’s like I was immersing myself in the part of myself that feels suicidal for a number of hours so that emotional state became stronger. Also the emotions became added into or influenced my own emotions. I was palpably more depressed after watching this.
5. Suicide Seems More Glamorous.
It temporarily increased my feeling of identification with suicide as glamorous, even though this feeling did not last very long because I actually don’t really truly think suicide is glamorous at all.
6. Suicide Seems Like More of a Solution.
On some level suicide feels like a more viable and greater solution than it felt like before. Again this lasted only maybe half a day, because once I got into my normal routine and left the house and did stuff I didn’t really retain this feeling. But it may return if I do become suicidal again at some point.
7. Suicide Seems More Positive and Effective.
I think that seeing how suicide was depicted as leading a person to a lot of positive things created some kind of confusion and internal disorganization.
Suicide was depicted as leading to: love, attention, care, recognition, notoriety, understanding, clarification to others, communication, revenge, protest, obtaining fairness, being seen for your beauty, being truly seen finally, being truly loved finally, being truly heard finally.
Suicide was depicted as leading to: love, attention, care, recognition, notoriety, understanding, clarification to others, communication, revenge, protest, obtaining fairness, being seen for your beauty, being truly seen finally, being truly loved finally, being truly heard finally.
After the first episode, as I noted, I did not feel identified with this and instead observing it helped me go into the observer mind.
But after more episodes, I think that I experienced a little cognitive dissonance for about half the day because this message elevates suicide and makes it feel positive while inside I know it’s truly negative, again this is just a subtle feeling I’m sensing.
Because of the fact that I personally don’t believe these positive effects of suicide to be true it dissipated but it took a little while to remove itself from my system. Note that whenever I say “my own beliefs overpowered the message I received” this is due to the fact that I am an adult; a teenager may not have formed their own strong beliefs about these things yet.
8. Suicide Can Fulfill Fantasies
The series makes it seem like suicide will fulfill all your deeply longed for fantasies. This is a story that actually fulfills, on screen, fantasies I have had, which makes me really uncomfortable. For example, what girl doesn’t want all the guys to suddenly see how beautiful she is, see all of her amazing qualities and actually feel deep guilt and remorse over mistreating her? That is like every single high school girl’s fantasy. The girl is completely invisible in the world but then some magical transformation happens to her and she becomes this amazing, beautiful princess and then her crush, the most important boy in the universe, is crying about how much he loves her. This is like the quintessential teenage girl fantasy, and even adult girl fantasy.
The only reason I don’t fall for this as an adult is I already have experienced that if I have some kind of fantasy about someone it doesn’t mean they would necessarily suddenly care if I killed myself, if they didn’t care all that much before. Yes, it’s a possibility, but real life is complicated. That fantasy, of having the one beautiful boy you’re secretly in love with fall apart because you’re dead? Most of the time it doesn’t really work out that way. And – even if it did happen, it doesn’t matter – you don’t get anything out of it since you’re dead at the time it gets fulfilled! Anyway, at this point I’m not going to commit suicide for love fantasy fulfillment because of my life experiences that showed that this strategy is not effective. The problem is, if I were a teenager I would not have these life experiences and I would have no idea that it doesn’t work that way in real life.
9. Suicide Leads to a More Desirable Self-image.
The girl who committed suicide, Hannah Baker, became beautiful and loved after she committed suicide. If I want to have beauty and love, I might identify with her and what she did. If however, the character was shown as seriously mentally ill, as she most definitely was, I may not want to identify with that, or I may gain some much-needed understanding into myself.
10. Suicide is About Context, Not My Mental Health.
I saw that suicide is not about mental illness but is an issue of a difficult context, especially a challenging social/relationship context with family, peers and general community along with cumulative trauma. I have a difficult context too. The thing is, if I were to shift my view from being so distressed about that context and instead direct it at my own mental illness – the fact that my own physiology and body and nervous system are altered dramatically from how they used to be, and the fact that my perceptions are altered dramatically from what they used to be, and even my brain is changed, and my stress hormones are different, and the neural pathways are different – all are totally changed due to trauma – maybe I would ask for help.
Maybe I would take a step back.
Maybe I would seek someone to guide me.
Maybe I would stop blaming the outside world (I mean, to clarify, I would blame the perpetrators for my becoming traumatized in the first place but I would then refocus on healing myself, rather than stay so focused / obsessed on them and their lack of care (or whoever I’m now being triggered by who did not hurt me)).
Maybe I would have an insight into what trauma and mental illness can do to a person. After all, I was never suicidal before PTSD. My context was just as difficult before PTSD as it is now. So what is it causing my suicidality – the context or the mental illness? In my case it’s 99% the mental illness that causes me to feel suicidal.
I don’t want to get the message from a show that suicide relates 100% to current context because I don’t want to continue to build up all my disturbed perceptions and emotions directed at my context until I finally escape my context by suicide. I want something to wake me up and say – Look! Look at how your mental illness is affecting your mind so badly! It’s not your current context at all that you need to escape from; it’s your PTSD that needs healing, and you need to fight it and you can do it! You can win this! You can win it with a counselor and a friend and a family member helping you out.
I want something to wake me up and say – Look! Look at how your mental illness is affecting your mind so badly! It’s not your current context at all that you need to escape from; it’s your PTSD that needs healing, and you need to fight it and you can do it! You can win this! You can win it with a counselor and a friend and a family member helping you out.
11. You Continue After Suicide.
Suicide was depicted as something that you can live beyond. This gave me a strange feeling around suicide after watching it, almost as if it was some step within a process rather than a final event. I really felt suicide to be elevated and more acceptable. Because she was speaking from after her suicide, it just gave the feeling that you will actually live beyond your suicide. The way it’s depicted makes it seem like an act of protest, communication or revenge that you’ll be able to conclude and will bring some resolution to all the issues you are facing, rather than a final and rather horrible act that is very challenging to resolve within the people that are left behind, and impossible to resolve for you.
What I need to see is that it is after that act of suicide when you truly become helpless/powerless and hopeless. Before the act of suicide there is always the possibility of having power and hope. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there is always that possibility. But after – the possibility vanishes. You’re trying to find a way to have power over your situation by leaving it by suicide, your power to leave by suicide is the only power you think you have, but you end up with the opposite of what you wanted – you end up with a lot less power since you’re dead now. It’s that tunnel vision that makes it impossible to see this. They didn’t make this clear and really break through that illusion, and they should have made it crystal clear. In order to be really helpful that illusion would be broken apart multiple times in the show.
Before the act of suicide there is always the possibility of having power and hope. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, there is always that possibility. But after – the possibility vanishes.
12. No Other Solutions Exist.
This series showed that there truly are no solutions anywhere in the world to the issues you face when you’re suicidal. It reaffirmed this very strong sense that I have when I feel suicidal that the only option is suicide. And that there are truly no other solutions available. This feeling and perception of reality is one of the key components that shifts me from feeling suicidal into wanting to commit suicide, which I refer to as going into “The State.” I saw that reflected in the series rather than challenged; it cognitively paved the way into the most key component of shifting into actually committing suicide rather than feeling suicidal – believing oneself to be trapped in something inescapable by any other means than suicide.
13. Many Scenes Were Triggering.
This series depicts traumatic events. The audience goes through these traumatic events with the characters. If the audience is traumatized or triggered on any level, even unconsciously, these traumas and triggers are left unfinished, unprocessed and unresolved. These image, scenes, events, sounds etc. may or may not affect someone. For me I did get triggered inside, I felt more connected to numerous incidents of unresolved trauma than I had felt before watching. It feels like getting triggered increased a sense of internal disorganization, numbness, apathy, tiredness, heaviness, confusion and depression. Being triggered and not resolving it adds a burden to the nervous system. It is the accumulation of these burdens that can feel so uncomfortable that suicide feels like a positive option.
More About the How-To Suicide Instruction:
Out of all of these negative things, I felt the worst, most negative effect of the series is that they made suicide more real to me. And this is very bad. I do not need suicide to be made more real to me when I’m suffering from all the symptoms of PTSD which includes frequently becoming suicidal. It actually feels like it made a permanent change to my more primitive, reptilian brain that connects this instinctive brain area to the act of suicide in a way it was not connected before, which I am very uncomfortable with and am going to seek to remedy.
Showing somebody exactly how to commit suicide makes suicide become so much easier to actually do.
Showing one method how gives me ideas that I can use later, even if I don’t even want those ideas. These ideas may not be useful to me now in this moment as I’m not suicidal. But if I ever became as suicidal as I was in 2011, there’s nothing in my mind when I am that suicidal that will stop me. Most of the self-protective and logical parts of the brain that usually step in are completely offline. The main thing that was stopping me was not having the knowledge about how to do it.
When I was very suicidal in 2011, there was one time I have recorded in detail when this was the case: The main thing between me and committing suicide was the uncertainty about how to do it. I needed to spend a lot of time researching how to commit suicide.
It was this time spent researching that both turned on a new part of my brain – a logical part – and also delayed it enough so that a distraction came in from outside to break me out of the state – kind of altered state of consciousness – I was in. The turning on of the logical, higher part of the brain and the outside distraction were both so important and effective in helping pull me out. If I had already known how to commit suicide, because I was taught how from a movie, I might not have had to spend so long on this research.
Now I do not think I actually would have done anything even if I had knowledge of a means, as I personally never have gotten all that close to actually harming myself. The point is that, the time I got the very closest, it was not knowing how that played the main role in breaking me out of The State and back into being myself.
I know that it’s possible to read about how to commit suicide on the Internet. The problem with showing someone actually doing it is it has more of an impact and it’s much more easily remembered than just reading something. I’m certainly glad that I never had much knowledge about methods during the acute phase of PTSD. Because actually that lack of knowledge was very protective.
So, giving any kind of knowledge about methods and means is very irresponsible, especially in an impactful, visual format like a movie.
You could say that showing something so horrible will deter people. Sure, it will deter non-suicidal people. But the issue with this is that when someone decides to commit suicide the brain has entered a completely different state than normal. It doesn’t think about cause and effect at all. It doesn’t think about pain or even understand pain. It has no concept of consequences or time. It is already inside death, it’s already gone over the threshold and thinks it’s died. This is a completely altered state and if you know a means to kill yourself when you’re inside that state it dramatically increases the likelihood that you will use it.
When someone decides to commit suicide the brain has entered a completely different state than normal. It doesn’t think about cause and effect at all. It doesn’t think about pain or even understand pain. It has no concept of consequences or time. It is already inside death, it’s already gone over the threshold and thinks it’s died. This is a completely altered state and if you know a means to kill yourself when you’re inside that state it dramatically increases the likelihood that you will use it.
Providing a How-to coupled with the fact that the series offered no other solutions was particularly irresponsible from a public health standpoint. The perception of having no solutions is such a key component of feeling suicidal. Really the main problem causing me to feel suicidal is when I come to believe that I have absolutely no solutions. The series didn’t help me by combining giving me a means with the perception that there are no solutions. It really reinforced these ideas – the idea that there are methods to make suicide more easy to act upon and the world can be a place in which there literally are no solutions to what you’re facing except suicide.
So, those are some serious problems. But I believe they could remedy those problems.
In the next article, I will provide a list of qualities of a movie or show that would address the subject responsibly and give my opinion on how they should implement them.
Heidi Hanson is an artist and writer in Asheville, North Carolina currently working on an illustrated book chronicling her journey healing from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.