SOCIAL ISSUES

13 Reasons Why: A scary-realistic cautionary tale or a tragic romanticization of teen suicide?

by cathErine mcdonald

This article contains spoilers for Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why

With Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why recently being released, this controversial series continues to have a major impact on today’s youth. It’s safe to say this Netflix series, based on books by Jay Asher, has been a cultural phenomenon, receiving approximately 3.5 million viewers in the first week of its release.  Its success might be due in part to the star power behind it, with Selena Gomez co-producing and contributing to the soundtrack.  What I think has made this series particularly appealing to audiences is the drama that keeps the viewer constantly on edge, which continues throughout the first and second season.

However, this series was not just made to entertain audiences, but to get them talking about important issues. The show tackles issues that affect teenagers everywhere including suicide, bullying, and sexual assault. These issues are a real danger to teens, with suicide on the rise and bullying more prevalent than ever. Further, 1 in 5 high school students report being sexually assaulted by a partner/date. But is the portrayal of these issues more harmful than it is helpful? There is an argument to be made that the series glorifies and normalizes suicide. The whole show is essentially about the revenge fantasy of a teenage girl and how she accomplishes it by taking her own life. This almost incentivizes suicide for struggling teens. It sends the message that taking your own life is a way to make sure the people that hurt you, will hurt too. It implies that suicide is the best way to take revenge, have your voice heard, and no longer feel pain.

Another issue with this revenge-fantasy plot is it perpetuates the idea that there is a direct reason why a suicide happens and that there is always someone to blame, be it peers, parents, or even guidance counselors. What it fails to address though is that suicide is a complex issue and putting the blame on someone else is useless. Sometimes, suicide has no explanation other than mental illness such as depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder, and many others. It is not only unrealistic but seriously problematic to see a suicide portrayed as the suicidal person wanting others to feel guilty, rather than focusing on the person’s emotions and thoughts.

Be that as it may, in the second season which has been recently released, Hannah clarifies her motivation for making the tapes. She explains that she made the tapes to assure that no one would get hurt the way she did again. Ultimately, though she was misguided in making the tapes, her goal wasn’t to hurt others.

Although not everyone who takes their own life has a mental illness, a mental disorder and/or substance abuse is found in 90% of suicides.  Furthermore, when it comes to adolescents, one in five have (or will have) a serious mental illness. Taking these statistics into consideration, it’s no wonder suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 10 to 14 years old and the second among those 15 to 34 years old. Clearly, these are important issues and ones that need to be addressed. 13 Reasons Why is one of the first mainstream media portrayals of suicide in adolescence to gain such vast amounts of attention worldwide. Despite this, it hardly talks about mental illness at all until Season 2. It misses the mark completely in this regard, passing up a lot of crucial opportunities to bring attention to an issue affecting the lives of so many children and teenagers.

 

The one-time mental illness is portrayed in depth is by one of the secondary characters, Skye, who lives with bipolar and eventually seeks help in a mental health facility. However, they don’t delve too far into what effects this really has on her life. Instead, they oftentimes use her mental disorder as a dramatic plot device to create conflict between her and Clay, her boyfriend. Clay tries time and time again to be her saviour which leads to an unhealthy relationship dynamic and actually hurts Skye rather than helping her.

It should be noted that the producers of 13 Reasons Why have more recently added a link at the end of each episode to a website they’ve created to help audiences find crises resources. Not only does this website include a list of resources for every country across the globe but it also provides a helpful discussion guide for the series. This guide mostly focuses on the importance of talking about the content of the show, specifically the more difficult topics such as suicide and depression. With the release of the second season of the show, they’ve also added videos of the cast talking about serious issues such as bullying, sexual assault and depression, that have been portrayed in the show. However, this site was only created after a lot of controversy and backlash from audiences. Each season of the series also ends with an episode where the actors, producers, and consultants of the show discuss the important issues depicted in the past season, further encouraging conversation from audiences.

Overall, 13 Reasons Why starts important conversations that need to be had about serious issues that affect teenagers. The way in which it does this, however, is questionable and problematic for many different reasons. It puts the blame on others and brings very little attention to mental illnesses which are often the root cause of most suicides. Although this series misses the mark in a lot of ways, it still manages to start an important conversation which will hopefully help teens in crisis reach out for help, rather than hurt them.

 

For resources visit https://13reasonswhy.info/

THE OTHER SIDE

BY ANONYMOUS

On April 12, 2018, thousands of Canadians donned jerseys and the colour green in memory of the sixteen people who lost their lives in a bus crash on April 6th.

 

On April 11, 2018, hardly any of these people wore the colour pink in honour of International Day of Pink - a day set out to celebrate diversity, diminish bullying, and raise awareness to stop homophobia, transphobia, and transmisogyny. An obscene amount of people are committing suicide every year due to hate related bullying. Nearly 4,000 students grade 9-12 attempt to commit suicide every single day. 

 

And did you know that on April 9th, a school bus crash in India killed twenty-seven people, twenty-three of them children. $7,700 US are being given to each family member that lost a child. Hindu cremation and funeral services can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000

 

A much needed $11 million CAD (as of April 14th) has been raised to alleviate funeral costs for the passed hockey players, provide financial aid for the men who now suffer from brain damage, paralysis, or some form of physical or mental injury, and pay for psychological care for survivors and family members.   

 

But why wear jersey's and green? There is no reason to raise awareness. No one has been maliciously attacked. There is no taboo topic at play. 

 

Hockey is a sport that brings this country together during triumph, and in this case, tragedy. Most people can relate to this tragedy because they themselves play or watch hockey. So, why not show support for the fallen players and make yourself feel better by wearing a jersey you probably would've worn anyways?

 

International Day of Pink occurs every year yet it still couldn't gain enough relevance for Canadians to spread bullying, equality, and diversity awareness by wearing pink. 

 

The bus crash in India killed more people and younger people, yet I hadn't even heard about it until I began researching for this article. Barely anyone in Canada had been talking about it, let alone raising $11 million. 

 

The original goal of $4 million was reached before Jersey Day so why hold it? A memorial service makes sense, a national minute of silence would have been appropriate. Wearing matching clothing to member people sounds more like a celebration.

Let's start to prioritize the things that really matter.

Editor's Note: This was submitted to us on April 14th and so any further instalments about the incidents mentioned were not commented on.

Melanie Florence's visit to nhs

the lasting effects of residential schools in Canada

bella crysler

Last week, Nepean High School was lucky enough to host guest speaker, Melanie Florence. Melanie spoke about the history of Canada’s First Nations people and the truth about residential schools in Canada. Her presentation educated us on the lifestyles of various First Nations groups before colonization, the government's attempts to force assimilation, and the lasting effects of residential schools on indigenous communities and their culture. In only 75 minutes, Melanie taught us an amazing amount of information about Canada’s past, present, and hopes for the future. The last residential school in Canada was finally closed in 1996, but the wounds they caused have not yet healed. 

Melanie Florence (left) and Bella Crysler (right) pose with one of Florence's books

It is my belief that every Canadian should take the time to learn about what happened in the residential schools, so we can ensure the racism and hatred poured into them never has the opportunity to exist again. The following is some of what Melanie taught us last Thursday.

Entire languages and histories were lost as a result of residential schools. The aftermath includes alcoholism, poverty, loss of culture, and a continued cycle of domestic abuse. All this because society, as we unfortunately see over and over again in history, was scared of different and unable to recognize the beauty in diversity. It is incredibly important that we take the time to acknowledge the mistakes of our past in residential schools, so we may never allow them to happen again.

Pre-colonization, First Nations communities across Canada passed on their history and educated their children orally through storytelling. Children in their communities didn’t go to school, but were taught moral lessons as well as how to provide and care for their community by their parents and elders. Children were regarded as the most important part of the group, as they were the future and would be the ones to pass on the history and teachings to the next generation. It is because of this that the government's attempts to force assimilation through targeting children was so catastrophic to First Nations communities. By forcing communities (many nomadic) to move to reserves that were often completely different from the land they had lived on for generations, and then forcing them to give up their children to go to residential schools, almost an entire generation lost the opportunity to learn their culture and carry it on. Unable to continue life the way they had for thousands of years, families living on reserves were often impoverished and children as young as 4 and 5 years old were taken from them. In some cases, children were completely cut off from their families for so many years that they did not recognize them when they were finally allowed to return home.

 

When at the schools, siblings were deliberately separated, children’s hair would be chopped off, they were punished for speaking their native language, and they were given numbers to replace their names. Students experienced various forms of mental, physical, and sexual abuse and were told they were worthless because of their race on a daily basis. Children died of abuse, starvation, disease, and from trying to escape. Those who made it out alive were often left deeply ashamed of who they were, and unable to reconnect with their communities

what to remember this November and why

By paul bossert

As the Canadian november sets in every year we turn our gaze to our history. Specifically the crimson corners of our history that we remember only in solemn connotations and in sour conversations. It is at this time that we remember the the brutality of wars past and present, and commemorate the sacrifice made by those who fought and those who fight still, to preserve freedom and ensure justice for everyone. The overall purpose of remembrance seems straightforward enough; remember the brutality of war so that it is not repeated. Although this is the most obvious purpose, there is a way that we can apply the ideals of remembrance to our own peacetime lives.

 

There is no shortage of political and social issues in the present day. Consider the migrant crisis in the middle east for instance, or the national debt, or the destruction of the environment. All of these issues stem from the actions of previous generations, actions that even the coming generations will likely have the burden of correcting. It is common for any given generation to hold previous generations in a rather contemptuous view. As children and young adults we observe the world as if it were an exhibit at a zoo. Close enough to be affected if the contents take a turn for the worst, but too far to intervene in the exhibit’s inner workings. This feeling of powerlessness can lead to resentment, but to resent the contents of the exhibit is to misunderstand the nature of the exhibit itself.

 

It is for this reason that remembrance is so important. It goes without saying that the world has never been perfect, and this is no more true today than it was a century ago. The position that our generation occupies was once held by generations prior, and the generations prior to those generations, and so on. Like us, they each had issues, local and international, that preceded them. The difference is that the issues facing wartime generations were considerably more deadly.

 

The question then becomes; why? Why would anyone give their life in order to solve a problem that they didn’t create? Why take that responsibility and sacrifice your own future? The answer is quite plainly; for us. Our world is not perfect now, and it quite possibly never will be, but we have a chance at love, laughter, and life that those who died across the atlantic never had. Despite the fact that we have inherited an imperfect world through no fault of our own, we have also inherited the opportunity to maintain peace through no merit of our own. If nothing else, remember those who fought so that you may one day do what was once done for you, so that you may build something that you may never see finished, plant a tree whose fruits you may never taste, or fight for a time of peace that you will not live long enough to enjoy.

 

Whether changing the present for the benefit of the future manifests itself in the form of economic growth, environmentalism, or other political activism, know that your contrinutions are not only valued, but necessary. In order to give a better future to those that will one day follow in our footsteps, we may have to give up part of our own future. We did not earn this chance, but we will not let it go to waste.

ADVICE COLUMN WITH KEVIN O'LEARY

INTERVIEW BY TIMOTHY POIRIER

Q: Dear Kevin what is your advice for young people that want to start a business as a career.


A: Whenever I see a company that was on either Shark Tank or Dragon's Den that became successful or self sufficient they all have one thing in common, and that is that they have all work to build their business. Whether it was working a second job to make bank payments, or finding a investors, no successful business in history was built on of foundation indolence and procrastination. 

Kevin O'Leary: businessman, author, & TV personality

This is not to say enjoying yourself is not important. It is important to take at least one period of relaxation every day. To do this you have to manage time as well as your can, If you have two minutes between meetings then take those two minutes to check social media or just anything that eases your mind. The harder you work the longer the relaxation periods can be the happier you will be . Otherwise your will be swallowed by your work, if this happens best case scenario you will be successful, but unhappy.

 

Worse case scenario you will be unhappy and unsuccessful.  if you think you will not have enough time to relax later in life, you can subsidize by saving your money as soon and as often as your can. Money from birthdays or holidays or jobs can and will be needed later in life. Maybe you save your money now, maybe you can make a bank payment earlier and don’t have to work over time. Maybe that extra money will let you go out with friends for a drink and just have a good time, but before all this can happen you must make sure that you have a good product. Make sure that you know what your product is and if people will like it. Just to be clear people will not buy something just because it is useful, people buy useless things all the time. The fidget spinner serves no use what so ever, but by May 2017 the industry was worth half a billion dollars.

 

Make sure to get lots of feedback on your product, but do not ask just your friends or family. Your do not want someone that will just tell you what you want to hear but someone who will tell you what you need to hear. For the sake of clarity this will not guarantee a successful business but it will make it easier and more rewarding.

too much garbage

 BY Ayaat Rabaa

I am the type of person who hates anything to do with ‘wasting’. Wasting food, water, electricity, paper, and other things which their consumption rates can be minimized. Unfortunately, we live in a world where most people have a problem with over consumption, and that leads to excess waste production, pollution, global warming, climate change, etc. And what most people do with the waste that they produce is what is infuriating. Many people don’t reuse or recycle any of their wastes, some simply throw everything in the garbage, some throw them on the streets, others bury them, many people burn them, some find that the lakes, rivers, beaches, and seas to be the perfect places for them, and that all depends on where you are in the world.

 

We can blame the governments all we want, but as they say, if we want change we should start with ourselves. There are many ways we can solve this issue. For example, we can reuse any plastic bags, containers, cutlery instead of throwing them and rebuying them. We can also decrease waste by minimizing unwanted mails we receive, buying products from companies that make their packages from recycled content (there are plenty), heck, we can even manage a lifestyle that can produce 2 garbage bags or less than a jar of wastes per year (yes, you read that right, less than a jar in a year).

Trucks unloading trash into a garbage dump in Toronto, Ontario

Our planet is being destroyed by our own hands, and we can clearly see the effects of our actions by looking at the natural disasters happening around the globe. If we put more effort into raising awareness and persuading those who don’t believe in such global issues, we can maybe reduce waste production by a high rate; cleaning the waters and return the air breathable like it used to be because in the end, we are the ones who will regret our actions, not Earth that we are blessed with.

KNIGHTWATCH 2019/2020

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