PTSD and Awareness

Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion #2

**Trigger Warning — This post covers a broad spectrum of potentially triggering topics, such as abuse, bullying, cutting, sexual assault, and suicide. Please read with caution. If you need to find help for any reason, go to 13ReasonsWhy.info.**

The Problems: Part Two

**Spoilers Ahead — proceed with caution.**

I’m back with another discussion post about the controversial TV show, Thirteen Reasons Why. If you haven’t already, feel free to read the introduction here and the first discussion here.

There’s been lots of speculation over the show’s decision with Skye, Clay’s old friend — someone he hasn’t connected with in some time. As we see Skye throughout the show, we can tell she’s carrying some baggage of her own. Her tattoos, makeup, clothing, and accessories are indicative enough of her individuality. Now, we don’t know her past, but we do know that she’s been through something. Or, at least, her appearance gives us that impression.

Clay and Skye’s relationship is on unstable grounds, and he isn’t sure whether he can trust her, let alone consider her a friend.

When Clay is anxious about hearing his tape in episode eleven, Skye offers to help him with a Tarot reading. Intrigued by what she could offer him, he agrees. But as she starts to read the cards, Clay takes the offensive, which leads to an argument. Her analysis is too close for him to handle, and he thinks she is intentionally trying to provoke him.

But Skye’s appearance — those tattoos, her makeup and hair, even her accessories, clothes, and her use of Tarot cards isn’t what’s stirring up discussion and controversy. It’s what happens when Clay strikes back at her.

As Skye deals the cards, Clay notices scars. Tiny cuts, in various stages of healing along her inner wrist and forearm. A clear sign that she is what many refer to as a cutter. As he lashes out in the middle of her reading, she asks, “Why would I be jealous of a dead girl? What she did was stupid.”

In defense, Clay mentions that she didn’t know anything about Hannah.

“I know she didn’t go through anything different than any of us. We all get through it.”

Clay grabs Skye’s arm, gesturing at the cuts on her wrist, and asks, “Then what’s that?”

“It’s what you do instead of killing yourself.”

Simple answer, right? Not really.

Now, before you jump on my back and attack what I’m saying, hear me out. Since I haven’t read the book, I don’t know if Skye is in it, or if she is, if this is even a part of her storyline, but what I do know is that this show is just like fiction. Imagine if you were reading a book, would you think anything other than, “This is just one girl’s opinion.”

But that’s exactly what it is. A character is someone with his or her own thoughts, beliefs, and choices. This is Skye’s method of coping.

What has the world up in arms is the argument that the show is subtly telling teens they should cut instead of slit their wrists. Perhaps some might feel that cutting is a viable answer. It isn’t the right answer, but at least it isn’t suicide.

One (fictional) girl’s opinion doesn’t mean that the show wants anyone contemplating suicide to cut instead, though some may argue that point. But is it really that unrealistic to see one girl in high school dealing her pain in the way Skye does?

I don’t think so.

Why?

If you’re dealing with as much insecurity and ridicule as Hannah and Skye (or any other girl in high school, or victim of abuse, or sexual assualt, etc.) there’s bound to be some damaged ones dealing any way they can. Especially with people who deal with extreme levels of anxiety or fears — the kinds of emotions most cutters feel the most when they experience that urge to feel physical pain instead of emotional — it doesn’t seem that unlikely.

You see, when someone diagnosed with Non-Suicidal Self-Injury, or NSSI, feels physical pain, scans revealed a decrease in activity in the emotional centers of the brain. Feeling physical pain helps them feel better emotionally. (Source) Does this behavior mean that it’s safe to be an NSSI? Not at all.

I don’t think Netflix or the writers were wrong about Skye and her answer to Clay, but I do think it’s worth mentioning. Yes, it is a cause for concern — not for the show, and Skye’s explanation in particular, but for anyone that causes physical harm to themselves. NSSIs are statistically at an increased risk of suicide, either on purpose or by accident, and it should be stressed that individuals that harm themselves need to seek out help.

A warning at the end of this episode informing people that self-harm shouldn’t be considered a viable option and that anyone suffering from it needs to find help would suffice.

© Sarah Doughty

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27 thoughts on “Thirteen Reasons Why Discussion #2”

  1. I really feel this show is a fictional show and not accurate in so many ways, I watched it with my 16 year old and we both kept on commenting how if these were the reasons the main character killed herself than all teenagers would follow suit…I also think that the scene in the bathroom at the end (which is not in the book) was all for ratings. A scene that in essence should not be there, since there are so many teens fighting depression and suicide. I really believe that this show was not well done in blaming others for suicide. The parents were the best actors on the show. But nice post, Sarah, you are amazing. xx
    Chrissy

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree it’s not without its faults, but I think what’s important is that people are talking about it. If we are more aware, we might be able to save lives. And, to be honest, everyone handles things in different ways. I could understand why Hannah felt so lost by the end. Granted, she doesn’t try very hard to find help, but she’s not perfect. The short documentary that came after the season finale talked about why they chose Hannah’s end and why they chose to show it. Their hopes were to show people that there’s nothing glamorous about suicide. Whether it works or not, I don’t know. But I do know that, even though she was a fictional character, I wanted her to live.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t watched this episode yet and i think i might stop for good because i want to read the book instead. I love how you share your opinion/thoughts because you balance it out. You present what they did then reflect on them without pushing your thoughts are correct or acceptable to all. it’s a tricky part that you are succeeding. thus, enlightening us. thank you for this, love. ❤

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    1. It’s a tricky endeavor, that’s for sure. I bought the book to read as well, but I want to finish my discussions before I read it. I don’t want to mix things together and make a wrong impression.

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  3. I don’t think there is a wrong answer when it comes to finding a way to cope that doesn’t consist of ending your life. It’s hard to tell someone who is suffering from mental illness, from abuse, and so on that their way of coping is wrong, because even though it may not be healthy per say, it is helping them in some way. It’s a lot of gray areas.

    This was extremely insightful and I thank you for shining a light on such a hard issue, Sarah.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this article, it helps bring a new perspective into things. When I saw that episode I had conflicting emotions about Skye cutting herself, but her answer made it clear to me. She is dealing in any way she can, and while she knows cutting is not the best course of action she isn’t confident enough to seek help, or maybe help is not available to her. I am saddened beyond belief because I have known teenagers in similar positions, who feel like there is no one there to help them, and even worse, the adults surrounding them don’t notice that something is wrong with them…

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    1. I agree. The teens in this show are at the age where they’re trying to be independent, which makes them hesitant to open up to adults or ask for help if they need it. Clay has trouble talking to his parents, Skye doesn’t know other options, and Hannah was drowning, but she’s imperfect, and couldn’t really speak her mind.

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  5. This is such an interesting discussion. I agree with you that it’s all said in the characters opinion. I know people similar to Skye who have said things the same as this. In that sense, this creates a very real character, whose opinions and mannerisms match her personality and background. Of course, promoting self harm isn’t a good thing to do, but I’m not sure that was Netflix’s aim. It’s a thin line unfortunately and it’ll never be good enough or bad enough for anyone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree. When I saw it, it felt true to her character, because she isn’t the type to be afraid to say what’s on her mind. Of course, with all the controversy, when Netflix agreed to add warnings and resources (I still need to check to see if this has been done), I hope they were wise enough to add this one too.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. You bring up a very crucial element of the show. I agree and thought much the same. I like the character if skye and how the character is used to speak to other outcomes aside suicide and the ending where Skye and he are together seems a way of instilling hope (in those who survive) but may also be marred by an inadequate treatment on cutting and an echo of condemnation by Skye of Hannah for going all the way. I felt this was realistic because sometimes survivors can be caustic about those who didn’t survive it’s human nature. And very condemning. Excellent analysis. Loving your thoughts on this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I liked how they connected at the end. Their argument, “Why not say, ‘Hey, Skye, how’s it going?'” which was exactly what he says to her at the end. He knew she was struggling, and he took the time to treat her better than he had in the past. Maybe that’s the hope she needs to get help and improve. Or, maybe hell be the one to help her, or urge her to seek help. Hopefully we’ll get to see that in season two.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I did too I felt it was redemptive and he would not have understood Skye beforehand so this was like a completed circle? I also thought she was redemptive as in showing ‘another route’ through the PTSD and trauma/depression. I liked her character. She called his shit out. I wish I’d been that way at her age. Oh I wonder how that will go – did you ever see Audrey and Daisy? I just watched it this weekend and was ROAR with anger!!!! NOt enough is done so I appreciate when someone of caliber like yourself writes thoughtful posts like this (when’s the next one!)

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      2. A day or two, I’ll post the next one. And I agree, it seemed like their relationship took a turn for the better at the end, and I’m glad to see that they’ll have each other. Clay might be able to help Skye where he couldn’t with Hannah. And I agree. Though she’s strong enough not to be suicidal, she’s still dealing in the best way she can on her own. I remember the conversation that Clay and Jeff had. I could tell they were talking loud enough that Skye could hear them when Jeff mentioned she was ‘Twilight’ and then went on to say, “She’s a pretty girl, I don’t know why she dresses like that.” I think it was meant to be a compliment, but to Skye, it wasn’t. And yes, I saw Audrey and Daisy (and A Girl Like Her). There’s so much slut-shaming and blaming happening (after sexual assault) that kids who go through this. The interesting thing (which I’ll talk about later) that most adults think, is that teens haven’t fully developed their frontal lobes, which means, to them, their pain feels like it will last forever. That they won’t get better. That’s one of the reasons why teens are more likely to be suicidal, because they truly feel there’s no way out of their misery and their lives are ruined forever.

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  7. Wow this issue is not in the book as far as I remember- in my personal opinion, they could have done with leaving this out- I just don’t think it should be brought up in respect to being an alternative to suicide- that’s pretty irresponsible of the writers. I’m with you on this though- it’s something that should be explained and understood- I just don’t think this is a healthy message. And yes, they should have had a warning at the end for people who self harm.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah yes I agree with that- it’s less that I think it shouldn’t be in the show (I’d be open to that) I just *really* object to them presenting it as an alternative to suicide. It’s a really toxic habit, really easy to form and really hard to break- so I think it’s a bit of an issue they’d say that :/

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree. It wasn’t necessary to say it, but since they did, they should have included a warning about the dangers. Because it did make cutting seem like a viable alternative to dealing with emotional pain.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. When I saw the heading, I couldn’t help but read it. I haven’t watched the show but I have read the book and no such conversation between Clay and Skye happens there. You have picked a dark and strong issue here and to be honest, I don’t know what is right or wrong when I read about these things. I think only the ones who actually go through all this stuff know the whats and whys related to it. And yes, you’re right. Suicidal or not, individuals that harm themselves need to seek out help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, thank you for sharing that information about Skye in the book. It helps bring perspective. These are my opinions based on my knowledge and experience with mental health issues, specifically regarding anxiety and PTSD.

      Liked by 1 person

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