A Therapist’s Comprehensive Episode-by-Episode Breakdown of Hannah Baker’s Suicide in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why
As a therapist who has worked with suicidal teenagers, depressed clients, and survivors of sexual assault, and as a survivor myself, I’m joining the ranks of everyone weighing in on the show.
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on a book about a high school sophomore, Hannah Baker, who commits suicide. Before killing herself, she records her innermost thoughts on cassette tapes that go into incriminating detail about all of the shitty things people have done to her over the course of one school year. Hannah explains how the culmination of all of these shitty things ultimately led to her decision to end her life.
Here’s a comprehensive summary of all of those things and a breakdown of Hannah’s downward mental and emotional spiral, as well as what you can do if you ever find yourself in the position of any of the 13 Reasons Why characters.
WARNING: Major show spoilers, graphic imagery, and discussions of rape and suicide ahead.
Tape 1, Side A (Episode 2): Justin Foley, Starter of Slut-Shaming Rumors
Summary: A guy who who Hannah shares her first kiss with (Justin) brags to his friends that he fingered her on their first date (he didn’t). His bros grab his phone and mass text a compromising photo of Hannah that Justin took without her consent. Justin, his friends, and student who receive the picture slut-shame Hannah so everyone thinks she’s easy and begins to treat her accordingly (a’la that archaic B.S. “that girl is a slut so let’s objectify, judge, and look down on her,” vs “that guy is a stud so let’s worship, praise, and look up to him” thing).
Therapist thoughts: People love to gossip. Especially about juicy topics like sex, and especially when it gives them the chance to judge others in order to feel better about themselves. When rumors start flying, they’re hard if not impossible to stop, and many people are more likely to believe gossip from a stranger than the truth coming straight from the source.
Why? It’s called confirmation bias: We tend to seek out, favor, and hear things that support our existing belief and to dismiss any other proof or information to the contrary, no matter how strong it may be. If someone believes Hannah is a slut because it somehow makes them feel better about themselves, they’re going to see all the reasons to support that belief (i.e. other people talking about it, interpreting a photo a certain way) and ignore all of the reasons that challenge it (i.e. Hannah denying what happened). A victim of an untrue or harmful rumor can feel scared, frustrated, sad, angry, helpless, vulnerable, and alone.
What Hannah needs: A support network of friends who listen to, defend, and love her no matter what.
What Hannah gets: Judgmental looks, rejection, lewd looks, and scorn.
What to do if you’re Justin: So you made out with a chick and you want to exaggerate what happened in order to get more cool points with you bros? Before you do, take a minute and ask yourself if it’s worth it. When in doubt, choose to be kind.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If a nasty rumor gets spread about you, talk to someone about it who you know has your back. A trusted friend, a caring parent, or a therapist. Don’t suffer alone in silence. Remember who you are at your core: You are precious, lovable, and worthy. Recruit others into your life who can affirm this truth along with you.
Tape 1, Side B (Episode 2): Jessica Davis, The Slapping Frienemy
Summary: Hannah’s only friends, Jessica and Alex, stop hanging out with her and leave her out of the loop when they start dating each other. They eventually break up, and Jessica accuses Hannah of being the reason why. When Hannah denies it and says “Fuck you” in a moment of frustration and pain from being falsely accused, Jessica slaps her.
Therapist thoughts: Friend drama sucks. It can happen suddenly and unexpectedly. You can be someone’s bff one day and their mortal enemy the next for real reasons or fake ones conjured up in their imagination. As social creatures, we all want to belong to a group. In a group or herd, there is nurturing, support, and safety. Alone, we can be picked off and killed by predators. For those who remain in the group, kicking someone out can be a trivial and meaningless act. For the one kicked out, it can be the loss of a major lifeline.
What Hannah needs: Communication, calm and loving resolution of a misunderstanding, and caring connection with others.
What Hannah gets: Isolation, deepening loneliness, and a slap in the face/physical abuse.
What to do if you’re Jessica: If you suspect a friend has done something to hurt or betray you, talk to them about it from a calm and grounded place. If you go in furious with your mind already made up about what happened, no communication can occur and no understanding can be found. Take a few breaths, get yourself grounded, and ask the friend in question if you can have an honest, real talk with them. Enter the conversation as open as possible. Be curious and willing to listen, to hear, and to be heard.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If your friends drop you for no reason, you can speak to them directly to tell them how you feel (hurt, confused, sad). If they don’t respond or aren’t willing or able to hear you, seek out support (once again, with a trusted friend, parents, or therapist) and begin looking for new friends. Now that there’s new space in your life, you can intentionally fill it with people who have characteristics you want — caring, consideration, and kindness.
Tape 2, Side A (Episode 3): Alex Standall, “Best Ass” Revenge List Writer
Summary: Alex writes a “Best of/Worst of” list in an attempt to hurt his ex Jessica, listing Jessica as the girl with the “worst ass” in school and listing Hannah as the girl with the “best ass.”
Therapist thoughts: If someone hurts us, we want to hurt them back. Directly through violence or indirectly through karma, we want some sort of harm to come upon them — an eye for an eye kind of deal. When Jessica hurts Alex’s feelings by refusing to have sex with him and then breaking up with him, Alex tries to hurt her back by triggering her jealousy. The whole “two wrongs don’t make a right” thing applies here, but that can be impossible to realize when you’re hurting and the only way you think you can make that hurt go away is by hurting the person who hurt you.
Alex takes advantage of Hannah’s already slut-shamed reputation to give her the title of “best ass,” and even though he may even have considered it a compliment to her without meaning to harm her, it just makes things worse. As if Hannah wasn’t already getting unwanted attention from the incident with Justin, now she has more people checking out her ass and judging her —some innocently, some jealously, some with malicious/predatory intent — all judging her with their looks, stares, and gossip. Hannah’s getting attention, but it’s unwanted negative attention that hurts her, not helps her.
Having your name listed as “best ass” on a “best of” list isn’t necessarily horrible in and of itself, but it’s horrible in this instance because it adds to the snowball effect of self-consciousness, insecurity, isolation, and lack of support, respect, and understanding that Hannah is experiencing.
What Hannah needs: For people to leave her alone and give her space so she can start to heal.
What Hannah gets: Pettiness, snarkiness, unwanted sexual attention, and continued slut-shaming and objectification.
What to do if you’re Alex: If you’re hurting after a breakup, talk to someone about it. A good friend, a mental health professional, or someone you trust who has gotten through a tough breakup can help you through the suck. Pain + pain = more pain in the world. Pain + having the courage to reach out, do the work, and heal = Less pain in the world. What do you want to create?
What to do if you’re Hannah: Notice if you start having extreme reactions to relatively small things. For example, you explode and start screaming at someone who asks you an innocent question. Odds are, there’s a lot of stuff brewing beneath the surface and it’s important for it to be addressed. If you’re in this situation, seek out the support that you need and deserve. Approach someone you trust and tell them that you need to talk.
Don’t keep it all inside and don’t try to deal with it all on your own — we are social creatures and we need each other. If you would be there for someone who needs to talk, odds are they will be there for you, too. Reach out and keep reaching out until you find someone who will listen. You can call The Teen Link Chat Line every night between 6–10pm at 1–866–833–6546 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 at 1–800–273–825. There is always someone available to talk to you. You don’t get to get through this alone.
Tape 2, Side B (Episode 4): Tyler Down, Stalker
Summary: School photographer Tyler stalks Hannah, lurking outside of her bedroom and taking pictures of her at night, including an incriminating photo of Hannah making out with a girl named Courtney during a game of drunken Truth or Dare. When Tyler asks out Hannah and she turns him down, he acts vindictively in forwarding the blurry photo in an e-mail to everyone in school.
Therapist thoughts: Stalking is a very real, very scary thing. It is defined as “a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment made against the expressed wishes of another individual, which causes that individual to feel emotional distress including fear, harassment, intimidation or apprehension.”
Tyler’s constant refusals to respect Hannah’s requests for him to stop taking photos of her under the pretense “I’m the school photographer/It’s for the year book” is harassment and intimidation. He doesn’t feel very powerful, so he wields his camera as both a weapon and a shield: To attack and to protect him from counter-attacks. Tyler is hurt by everyone’s constant rejection, including Hannah’s. He wants to hurt everyone initially through annoying and invasive photos, and ultimately with actual guns and ammo (as insinuated by the final scenes he is in — season 2?).
As for Hannah, his stalking and shooting her during unwanted times and in non-consensual ways increases her already high anxiety, paranoia, and stress levels. Tyler may only be an annoying mosquito to some people, but to Hannah he is a Hunger Games-like tracker jacker who stings her repeatedly with his refusal to respect her space and wishes, inducing fear and psychological torture.
What Hannah needs: For people to respect her boundaries. To stop when she says “no.” And again, for people to leave her alone and give her space so she can regain her footing and begin the process of healing.
What Hannah gets: Constant violation of her boundaries from people who don’t take “no” for an answer. This wear and tear is exhausting and eroding her energy and ability to say NO, since all of her efforts to protect herself so far have been ignored and steamrolled.
What to do if you’re Tyler: If you feel sad and lonely because people ignore you or push you around, trying to force your way into their lives and into their personal space isn’t the way to fix that. Connect with people who share your interests — start a photography club, take photography classes and workshops, and be with people who appreciate and accept you for who you are. Get help and support for the bullying that you’re suffering. Stalking won’t make girls like you. It will freak them out and scare them away. It might also land you in jail, so just don’t do it.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If you suspect someone is taking pictures of you in bedroom late at night, invest in curtains, blinds, and blackout shades. Also, contact the police. Immediately. In many states, you can file for a restraining order against anyone who has stalked or harassed you.
Tape 3, Side A (Episode 5): Courtney Crimsen, Self-Preserving, Slut-Shaming Perpetuator
Summary: Courtney, a nice-to-everyone-in-a-fake-way perfectionist afraid of being outed for being gay, throws Hannah under the bus and spreads rumors that the photo that Tyler took is of Hannah and “her girlfriend Laura.” To make sure her little lie is believed, Hannah adds gory glorified details to “what she heard” happened the night that Justin supposedly fingered Hannah during their first date on the playground. And so the slut-shaming snowball rolls on, building in momentum and speed.
Therapist thoughts: Clay’s head wound keeps getting re-injured, so it never has a chance to start healing. Just like Clay’s head wound, Hannah’s psychological and emotional wounds are continually hurt, aggravated, and re-opened, so they can’t heal either. Just when Hannah thinks she might have an actual friend in Courtney, shit goes down and she’s betrayed and targeted all over again by someone who she had hoped would help her, not hurt her.
What Hannah needs: A friend who won’t stab her in the back to save themselves.
What Hannah gets: Abandonment and more slut-shaming.
What to do if you’re Courtney: If you’re LGBTQ+ person who is struggling in any way, please know that you don’t have to do it alone. There’s a 24/7 online chat room, 24/7 Trevor Project Hotline, and local LGBTQ centers in cities around the country offering support and resources for anyone at any stage. It can help to talk to someone in a safe, anonymous, and non-judgmental space.
What to do if you’re Hannah: Proceed with care when choosing your friends. Don’t immediately open up your life and your heart to a stranger — that privilege must be earned. Trust must be built over time, through observation and experiences. If someone demonstrates that they are selfish, self-serving, untrustworthy, or any other red flag characteristic, let them go and focus your efforts on finding and more deeply connecting with people who are kind, compassionate, caring, and considerate. It’s better to be alone than surrounded by snakes.
Tape 3, Side B (Episode 6): Marcus Cole, Dehumanizing Opportunist
Summary: Student body president Marcus asks Hannah out and then tries to finger her in a restaurant on their date. He “thought she was easy” and was offended when she rejected him in front of his friends, who he’d invited along to watch. After she pushes him away, he rounds up his buddies and leaves Hannah crying into her milkshake.
Therapist thoughts: Sleazy sexual predators can also come in the form of student body presidents. Hannah had hoped for the best in Marcus but got the worst. Yet another male who heard the rumors and hoped to hook up based on her reputation instead of caring about or wanting to get to know her as a person. This can feel devastatingly dehumanizing and demoralizing, especially when it happens again and again and again. At this point, Hannah is visibly losing faith in males, in people, in herself, and in life.
What Hannah needs: A person who wants to get to know her for who she is.
What Hannah gets: A predator who wants to use her for what he thinks she is, without care or regard for her as a human being with feelings.
What to do if you’re Marcus: Don’t make assumptions about people based on what you hear. Give them a chance to show you who they are, and give yourself a chance to decide who they are for yourself. This means not bringing along the entire basketball team with you to watch.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If you’ve gone out with a bunch of guys who don’t treat you with respect, care, and consideration, do a dating detox. Take a break in order to take care of yourself. Remember, rediscover, and restore your faith in who you are, what you love, and what is most important to you in this world. Validation from assholes isn’t it. Self-love and self-care are. Do it, because you’re worth it.
Tape 4, Side A (Episode 7): Zach Dempsey, Petty Thief with a Weak Spine and Easily Damaged Ego
Summary: Zach, a jock with a softer side that he hides from his teammates, approaches Hannah in the diner after Marcus leaves and simply sits with her. Later in school, he asks out Hannah from a place of willingness to get to know her. She flatly rejects him, assuming he’s just like all the rest. Once Zach’s ego is wounded, he acts out in a snarky way by stealing “positive notes of encouragement” that others have written to her. More little lifelines are lost and destroyed in the process — a miniscule and petty action for Zach, a major and spirit-crushing loss for Hannah.
Therapist thoughts: It seems like Zach is the least predatory of all of the males who have approached Hannah so far (Justin, Tyler and Marcus). At this point, Hannah has had enough — can you blame her? — and seems to have shut down completely when it comes to trusting any males. Based on her experiences to date, she generalizes Zach’s intentions to be like all the others, and her basic survival instincts are kicking in to try and protect her. In the process, they also isolate her, and they set off Zach by crushing his fragile ego. He appears to take on a “it’s so great of me to try and save the girl that everyone else has taken a dump on” attitude and can’t accept the fact that his act of charity has been rejected. When Zach steals Hannah’s notes of encouragement out of spite, he denies her small rays of light and hope, leaving her in ever-deepening darkness. Even though she catches him taking them, she says nothing. Her will to speak up has been beaten down so much it is nearly gone. If nobody listens to you or believes you when you talk, at some point you stop speaking up completely.
What Hannah needs: A person who will respect the boundaries that she sets without taking them personally and acting out to hurt her.
What Hannah gets: A person who takes great offense to her set boundary and punishes her for setting it.
What to do if you’re Zach: If you get turned down by someone you’re interested in, know that it’s not about you. It’s about them. The most loving response to anyone’s “no” is: “Thank you for taking care of yourself.” When someone says no, they are taking care of themselves by setting a boundary. If you care about them or yourself, honor that “no” and move on with dignity and respect.
What to do if you’re Hannah: Remember that “no” is a complete sentence. You don’t ever need to explain or justify your decision to take care of yourself by setting a boundary. Check in with your heart and your body to determine what you need. Speak your truth and say “no” if your heart, body, and spirit are screaming or just whispering it. Take care of yourself and reach out for support in getting your needs met whenever possible.
Tape 4, Side B (Episode 8), Ryan Shaver: Arrogant, Know-It-All Poem Stealer
Summary: A school zine editor, Ryan, admires Hannah’s poetry and publishes her very personal poem without her knowing. It is published anonymously, but without her consent. When Hannah confronts Ryan about not asking her for permission first, he responds flippantly — that he knows better than she does, that her work is wonderful and moving, and that it is best if everyone can read it. Even if that’s not what she wants.
Therapist thoughts: Nobody, including Ryan, has been respecting Hannah’s boundaries or asking for her consent for anything, from touching her body to respecting her privacy or verbal preferences. Everyone assumes that they know what she wants and that it’s conveniently what they want (i.e. Marcus, assuming that Hannah wants his sexual advances — false). And now Ryan, assuming that Hannah will want her poem published and shared — also false. He wants his magazine to look good, even if it means making Hannah feel bad.
Nobody is taking the time or effort to ask or listen to what Hannah wants. Her needs are continually dismissed, her personhood continually denied. Now, even her most private words and private world are subjected for everyone to see and judge. Her identity is being erased, her ability to choose or to have an opinion about anything shut down.
What Hannah needs: A person who will respect her and her wishes by checking in with her, asking what she prefers, and honoring and abiding by her wishes, no questions asked. Someone who is willing to listen to her, understand her, and truly hear her.
What Hannah gets: Another person who ignores her wishes for their own selfish reasons and personal gain.
What to do if you’re Ryan: If you want to share someone’s writing, art, music, or anything else they’ve created from their heart, make an effort to ask them for permission before doing anything. If they want what they’ve created to remain special and sacred to them and them alone, respect their wishes. If they grant you permission, go for it. But make sure you get it first.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If your work is published without your permission, you may want to contact a lawyer to discuss your options. A retraction, apology, and/or reparations for damages incurred may be possibilities to explore further.
Tape 5, Side A (Episode 9): Justin, Rape Accomplice
Summary: Justin (Hannah’s first kiss/fingering liar) is now dating Jessica (who used to date Alex and slapped Hannah). At a party, Jessica gets wasted and Justin leaves his girlfriend alone in a bedroom, realizing she is too drunk to consent to sex. Outside, his wealthy basketball teammate Bryce declares “What’s yours is mine” and enters the room to take advantage of Jessica while she is drunk. Justin makes a weak attempt to stop Bryce, who pushes him aside and closes the bedroom door behind him. Bryce lowers his pants and has sex with Jessica’s semi-conscious body, “shhh-ing” her when she weakly questions what is happening, and leaving the room when he is done defiling her. Hannah, who happens to be hiding in the room, sees and hears everything happening. Shaking, she remains frozen and does nothing to stop it.
Therapist thoughts: Justin comes from a household in which his mother is dominated by a controlling, abusive boyfriend. He is used to seeing his mother pushed around and he is used to her failing again and again to protect him from her boyfriend’s aggression and abuse. Bryce has provided Justin with shelter more than once, protecting him when nobody else would. Justin’s struggle to say “no” to Bryce is real. Just as his mother ultimately refuses to save him, he ultimately refuses to save Jessica. A combination of a dangerous and degrading “bro’s before ho’s” code, a feeling of obligation and “owing” Bryce due to being taken in by him so many times, being put in a position of powerlessness again and again by his own mother, and not being emotionally or physically strong enough to stand up for himself leads to Justin’s soul-crushing choice to let Bryce sexually violate his girlfriend without further protest. Does understanding what happened make it okay or acceptable? Absolutely not. Does deeper understanding raise compassion and concern for those in Justin’s position? Maybe. Hopefully those out there who can relate to Justin’s circumstances will seek help and support to get to a point where they can protect themselves and those they care for.
In this tape, Hannah elaborates on how Jessica’s rape affected her. She witnessed her friend being sexually violated without her consent. Jessica’s body was used as an object for Bryce’s pleasure and entertainment with zero regard for her feelings or personhood. Over and over again, Hannah has had her emotional and emotional boundaries violated without her consent. Her body has been objectified for the pleasure and amusement of everyone in school via notes, photos, attempted gropes, and stares on a day-to-day basis.
Witnessing Jessica’s rape would be horrific for anyone, even moreso for Hannah given the fact that her spirit has been so beaten down that remains frozen, unable to do anything about it. Just like she is witnessing Jessica being raped and feeling helpless to do anything about it, Hannah has been witnessing her own reputation and spirit being violated for months and has been rendered hopeless and helpless to do anything about it. Every time she has tried to stop anyone from violating her boundaries, they ignore her and sometimes hurt her even more badly and intentionally out of revenge, ego wounding, and spite. Hannah may have been scared that if she dared try to stop Bryce from raping Jessica, he would then focus his attention on hurting her — physically, emotionally, and likely sexually. He is also physically bigger and stronger than she is, wielding a stellar reputation as a favored star athlete in comparison to her smaller size and slut-shamed reputation.
Heartbreakingly, this is a situation that feels all too sickeningly familiar to many survivors of rape and sexual assault. Not only is the physical and sexual violence traumatizing, but the emotional aftermath during and after the event in struggling with whether to speak up, who to tell, what to say, and the risk of not being believed, supported, or worse, shamed and blamed, can be devastating.
Survivors frequently try to numb out or avoid having to face or think about the situation through drugs, alcohol (like Jessica), and high-risk behaviors. If you are the survivor of a sexual assault, please reach out for support when you are ready to do so. You are welcome to reach out to me directly or you can go here to find a therapist or support group for survivors in your area. Healing isn’t easy, but it is possible. Know that you are worthy of healing, love, support, cherishing, and wholeness.
What Hannah and Jessica need: People in their lives who see and respect them as human beings with feelings, boundaries, and souls.
What Hannah and Jessica get: People who use them and take advantage of them in their most vulnerable states.
What to do if you’re Justin: What can do you do if, like Justin, you are living in an unsafe household with the threat of emotional, physical, or sexual violence, with no adult able or willing to protect you? I wish the answer was as easy as saying, “Report the abuse to a school counselor, therapist, or trusted adult and call the cops if you feel like your life is in danger.” Sometimes that’s the answer, but oftentimes things are much more complex than that. There is no “one size fits all” answer for this. Justin tried to deal with his volatile and dangerous living situation by leaving and staying with friends when things got too bad, but that solution isn’t always reliable, safe, or sustainable. Transitional housing may be available in your area via Covenant House and additional shelters and resources may be found here. If you are a member of a church, synagogue, or mosque, reach out to leaders of the institution if you feel safe doing so.
What to do if you’re Hannah/Jessica: If you are able to, you can go directly to a hospital or police station to file a police report. If you go immediately after the assault occurred, a rape kit may be performed as an option (it’s not mandatory and you can choose not to have it done).
It is important to understand that filing a police report is different than pressing charges. You can file a report and never press charges, meaning your rapist will never be served with legal documents or even know that you filed a report. You can choose to wait years before pressing civil or criminal charges, if you ever decide to do so. The statute of limitations varies from state to state. Having the report on file can be one thing you can do for yourself and could be used as evidence for future reports which may help future victims.
Whether or not you file a report, please reach out for help from a therapist or a support group for sexual assault survivors. You don’t have to go through such a traumatic event alone. Please reach out.
Tape 5, Side B (Episode 10): Sherri Holland, Hit and Run Driver Who Lies to Look Out for #1 — Sherri
Summary: Sherri offers Hannah a ride home from the party where she witnessed Bryce raping Jessica. Sherri hits a stop sign and drives off without reporting it to the police, which ultimately results in the death of another student (Jeff Atkins, who deserved better :( ).
Therapist thoughts: When in doubt, live in integrity and do the right thing. Do your best to choose and take actions from a place of care, not fear.
What Hannah needs: Examples of people around her who do the right thing out of courage and love, considering the needs and safety of others.
What Hannah gets: Examples of people around her who do things out of fear and self-preservation, disregarding the needs and safety of others.
What to do if you’re Sherri: If you knock down a stop sign or any other important road sign, call the police. Call in anonymously if you have to.
What to do if you’re Hannah: If you see you are with someone who knocks down a stop sign or any other sign, report it. Once again, anonymously if you have to. Better a call than none at all.
Tape 6, Side A (Episode 11): Clay Jensen, Nice Guy
Summary: Clay is a nice, shy, awkward guy who has always been kind to Hannah. They worked together at a movie theater, hung out at parties, and danced together at a school dance. When they finally kiss, Hannah is flooded with insecurities and memories of all the slut-shaming that has been going down. Overwhelmed, she begins to cry and tells Clay to leave. He is the only person who responds by listening to her, hearing her, and respecting her boundaries and her wishes — and in doing so, he does as she asks. He leaves. In Hannah’s mind, she wishes he’d come back, but out of respect for her asking him to go, he doesn’t.
Therapist thoughts: Clay can’t be condemned for doing anything wrong. Through it all, he did the best he knew how to do. Sure, he may have lacked the courage to tell Hannah about his feelings for her. That’s scary for anyone. It’s also honest and congruent with who Clay was at that point in his life — shy, anxious, and a little awkward. The more he knows, the better he tries to do. We all move at our own pace when it comes to identifying, acknowledging, and sharing our feelings (if we ever do), and our individual process can’t be rushed. We’re ready when we’re ready. We’re not when we’re not.
In the tapes, Hannah explains that she pushes Clay away because she doesn’t feel like she deserves him. She feels broken, and in her brokenness she is afraid she might hurt him. In her despair, she tries to save him from her fate — by rejecting him, his caring, and his love. She feels like she is too much for anyone to handle, including Clay (without even giving him a chance). And herself.
When Hannah asks Clay to leave, he checks in once to make sure. After she yells at him to leave, he leaves. He is the only person who listened to her, honored her, and respected her boundaries by doing as she requested.
When he leaves, she wishes he’d come back — something she should have said out loud. We’ve all had those moments, when we say one thing and mean another, hoping someone the other person will magically read our minds and come back to give us what we want. The thing is, people can’t read our minds. In order to get what we want, we have to ask directly for it.
Hannah, feeling worthless, doesn’t.
What Hannah needs: To share her feelings and the truth of what is going on inside of her with someone who is trustworthy. Clay would likely have been a trustworthy person to open up to, but after being burned too many times and sinking into the depths of depression and anxiety, Hannah is no longer able to meet her own needs or trust anyone else to meet them.
What Hannah gets: An attempt by Clay to love her, which she rejects out of shame, overwhelm, fear, and a culmination of all of the shitty things that have happened to date.
What to do if you’re Clay: Be gentle and kind with yourself. Don’t beat yourself up for what you “should have” done. You did your best with the knowledge you had at the time.
What to do if you’re Hannah: Do your best to take care of yourself, even if nobody else in the world seems able to. Find a therapist to talk to — someone who will be there to give you their unconditional acceptance, attention, and support. In school, in person, or online. We are out there, available at a sliding scale if necessary. Protect and fight for yourself. You ARE worth it and you CAN build a support network around you so you don’t have to do the work alone. Start with a mental health counselor.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Mental health is just as important as physical health, meaning seeing a therapist when you’re struggling emotionally is just as important as seeing a doctor when you’re sick. It is one of the most important and loving things you could ever do for yourself.
Tape 6, Side B (Episode 12): Bryce Walker, Rich Rapist and Entitled Psychopath
Summary: Bryce, the rich jock who raped Jessica, rapes Hannah.
Therapist thoughts: I’m going to go ahead and give Bryce an armchair diagnosis of being a psychopath. Those who are diagnosed with this type of antisocial personality disorder exhibit the following traits:
- A disregard for laws and social mores
- A disregard for the rights of others
- A failure to feel remorse or guilt
- A tendency to display violent behavior
Psychopaths cannot form emotional attachments or feel empathy for others. They can have charming personalities but are extremely manipulative, using others for their own personal gain socially, financially, and sexually.
Psychopaths view their innocent victims as inhuman objects to be tormented or used for their own amusement — in Bryce’s case, Jessica and now Hannah are viewed coldly as inhuman objects to be used for his own sexual desires and gratification. He doesn’t care how they feel or what they want. It’s all about him and it’s only about him, in his mind.
At this point, Hannah is hanging onto by a thin emotional thread.
Being raped by Bryce snaps that thread.
You can witness the exact moment it happens during the rape. At one point, Hannah’s eyes glaze over and she goes completely limp. This response is also common in rape victims — the trauma is so shocking and physically, emotionally, sexually, and mentally devastating that the mind and the body disconnect or shut down completely in an attempt to self-preserve. It can take weeks, months, and often years to reconnect and open again.
The effects of rape can include: Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders (in an attempt to control after feeling helpless and not in control during the rape), self-blame, shame, rage, bouts of extreme anger and sadness, low self-esteem, dissociation (feeling separate from your body, sometimes being unable to feel it or any feelings), isolation, lack of motivation to seek help, and attempted suicide.
It is so very, very important to reach out for support and help if you’ve been raped. First, go to a safe place. Next, get help: Call 911 or RAINN (1–800–656-HOPE) and please get medical support or help — you may have injuries that need to be treated. If you are able to, file a police report and seek support in the form of therapy. If cost is an issue, the Victims Compensation Fund may be able to help with expenses. Remember: It was NOT your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, if you were drinking, or where you were. If you didn’t want to have sex and someone forced their body onto yours without your consent, that is rape. Help is available. You can get through this, and you don’t have to do it alone. Please reach out.
What Hannah needs: To go to a safe place, call 911 for help, get medical attention, file a police report, and connect with a therapist.
What Hannah gets: Her body violated and used against her will by rapist Bryce, lost and alone afterwards.
What to do if you’re Bryce: If you suspect you may be a psychopath, you can take a test for it here. If you don’t want to be a violent one, read on. Here is another article by James Fallon, a neuroscientist who discovered he was a psychopath — and what he is doing about it.
What to do if you’re Hannah (emphasized, from above):
- Go to a safe place.
- Get help: Call 911 or RAINN (1–800–656-HOPE)
- Please get medical support or help — you may have injuries that need to be treated.
- If you are able to, file a police report and seek support in the form of therapy. If cost is an issue, the Victims Compensation Fund may be able to help with expenses.
- Remember: It was NOT your fault. It doesn’t matter what you were wearing, if you were drinking, or where you were. If you didn’t want to have sex and someone forced their body onto yours without your consent, that is rape. Help is available. You can get through this, and you don’t have to do it alone. Please reach out.
Tape 7, Side A (Episode 13): Mr. Porter, Victim Blamer
Summary: In a self-proclaimed last-ditch effort to reach out to someone for help, Hannah goes to speak with the school counselor, Mr. Porter. During their talk, he doesn’t pick up on her signs of depression (feeling lost and empty) and instead asks her all sorts of victim blaming and shaming questions, including:
- “Did you make a decision to do something with a boy that you now regret?” (implying she must have consented during sex and then changed her mind at some point when it was over)
- “Did anything happen at that party that might be considered illegal? Drinking? Drugs?” (either trying to intimidate her by having her confess illegal activities were happening and/or implying that if she was drinking/on drugs it may have been her fault for being drunk/high — even if she was drunk or on drugs, no consent = no consent = rape)
- “He’s a senior. That means he’ll be gone in few months.” (implying this guy will be gone soon so you can go ahead and forget about it! UGH)
- “Did you tell him no? Did you tell him to stop?” (more victim blaming and shaming, implying she may not have given any indication she wanted him to stop — her limp, lifeless body, defeated posture, dead eyes, and complete lack of engagement apparently wasn’t enough)
- “Did he force himself on you? You think so, but you’re not sure?” (instead of supportive, kind, and nonjudgemental, and compassionate responses, Mr. Porter appears uncomfortable with the topic and asks judgmental, victim-blaming questions attempting to get Hannah out of his office so he doesn’t have to deal with the reality of what may have happened)
Therapist thoughts: The one adult Hannah reaches out to for help lets her down, too. Instead of giving her the benefit of the doubt, referring her to a trained psychotherapist for additional assessment and support, or giving her a list of resources for survivors of sexual assault, he awkwardly dismisses her with nothing but shattered faith and a broken heart.
Hannah does not reach out to her parents for support. Her parents did their best for her when they could (i.e. bought a fancier car for her to drive confidently to the dance), but weren’t able to accommodate all of her requests (i.e. didn’t move when she asked them to since they had a local business, bills to pay, etc.). Hannah acted fine around them and didn’t exhibit any overt signs of suicidality. They, like many parents in sadly similar situations, never suspected this would happen.
What Hannah needs: A counselor who listens to her, supports her, and gives her a referral to a more highly trained mental health provider if they do not feel equipped or able to handle the situation.
What Hannah gets: Victim-blaming and shaming.
What to do if you’re Mr. Porter: Listen. Be fully present. Give students who come to you for support the benefit of the doubt. Have referrals to therapists, groups, and other resources ready for any issues that arise that are beyond your scope of practice. Practice care, compassion, and kindness. If you are burnt out, take time for self-care in order to have the energy needed to do the important work that you do.
What to do if you’re Hannah: Don’t give up hope. If one adult won’t listen to you, keep trying. At some point, you WILL find someone who cares, who will listen, and who can help you. Please continue reaching out for help from a counselor, therapist, hotline, trusted parent or adult, trusted person at a religious institution, or medical professional. We are out there, and we care about you and your well-being and healing.
Tape 7, Side A (Episode 13): Hannah’s Suicide
Summary: Hannah takes a package of razor blades from her father’s store, goes home, draws a bath, and slits her wrists. She bleeds to death in the tub.
Therapist thoughts: Hannah is deeply hurting, feeling hopeless, and believing there is nobody who she can trust or turn to for help. She is also angry at those who she holds responsible for her pain, to the point where the only choice that she feels she has left is for her is to kill herself and leave behind recorded messages blaming those who wronged her. She expects everyone who ever hurt her to listen to the tapes after her death and for them to feel guilt and shame, holding them responsible for her death from beyond the grave.
As awful and heartbreaking as all of the things that were done to her were, the choice to commit suicide is ultimately a choice. It was Hannah’s choice, and Hannah’s alone. Saying that anyone else is responsible for a choice that she chose to make is reprehensible.
People who lose someone who they love to suicide tend to face regret even without having a finger pointed directly at them. They are often racked with unanswerable questions and endless “what if’s” about the person who is gone. Survivors blame themselves for not reaching out more, for missing warning signs, for doing too little, for trying to do too much. With 20/20 hindsight, they fantasize about endless scenarios of alternate realities in which they did or said something differently that would have prevented their loved one’s death. The truth is, your actions cannot cause someone else’s suicide. It is their choice, and theirs alone.
Could everyone have been kinder? Absolutely. Were they? No. Were they responsible for Hannah’s killing herself?
No. Hannah was.
If we give other people the power to control us, then we are powerless to the will and the whim of others. As human beings, we have choice: We have the choice to make different decisions, to try different things, and to go different ways than the directions we may be pushed, egged on, threatened, or bullied to. As human beings, we must do our best to choose self-care, self-compassion, self-protection, and self-preservation. It can be extremely difficult work to find the motivation to keep living, to address the underlying issues that contribute to the desire to kill yourself, and to find new ways to cope with emotional distress and challenging situations. It’s challenging work, but it is important and it is necessary and work that only you can do if you are struggling.
You alone can do the work, but you can’t do it alone.
The emotional work necessary to survive can be infinitely harder with a mental illness like depression or anxiety. If this is the case, as it was in Hannah’s, it is imperative to get help from a mental health professional. Not a friend or family member, but from a licensed counselor or therapist. You wouldn’t ask your friend, aunt, or cousin to perform heart surgery on you if you needed it, so if you need help for depression or anxiety, please contact a professional who is trained to help and support you in this way.
Not all kids who are bullied commit suicide. Not everyone who experienced what Hannah did will kill themselves. But some will, and for every person that kills themselves, over 100 others will try. Over 5,200 teenagers attempt suicide every day.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teenagers between the ages of 15–19 in the United states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents (#1) and before homicide (#3). More suicide statistics may be found here.
Hannah’s story is important because teenage suicide is a real thing. It’s not necessary to watch in its entirety, but 13 Reasons Why has helped teens, parents, and others have more open conversations about a difficult topic that many would rather ignore, dismiss, or sweep under the rug. We avoid uncomfortable conversations because we don’t like feeling uncomfortable, but often the most uncomfortable conversations are also the most important and necessary ones to have.
Depression, bullying, and suicide need to be talked about. If a show like this helps make it a little easier to introduce or bring up that topic, so be it. If this show can prevent just one suicide by opening the door to talking about very difficult, very important, and very real topics, then it is worth the pain, shock, and discomfort.
Please reach out for help if you are suffering or struggling in any way. You don’t have be alone. You do not have to do this by yourself. Please know that you are worthy and enough exactly as you are. Please know that you are cherished, loved, and lovable. Those who go through the deepest darkness are also capable of generating the brightest light — let’s help get you out of the darkness and into the light. Reach out to any of the below organizations to take one baby steps towards hope and healing. You are so worth it.
And lastly, from my heart to yours, I will say this: I’m sorry that things have happened in your life that have caused you pain. Please forgive me for not doing more. Thank you for being who you are. I love you.
Read and re-read that as many times as you need to.
Now go tell someone else who might need to hear it, too.
Resources for Help and Support
Trevor Lifeline | 1–866–488–7386
Trans Lifeline | US: 1–877–565–8860, Canada: 1–877–330–6366
Crisis Text Line | Text “741741”
If reading this made you think, feel, or somehow connect with your aliveness, click here and I’ll keep you in the loop for more.