13 Mental Health Tips When Watching ’13 Reasons Why’

 

13 reasons why

For those of us who experience mental illness, the story of Hannah Baker in ’13 Reasons Why’ might have triggered some pretty intense thoughts and feelings. This was definitely the case for me.

The hit Netflix series has people talking all over the world and whilst I’ve found a mostly positive reaction, it has caused quite a bit of controversy too!

As someone who has encountered similar experiences to Hannah, I am very keen to share my thoughts on the show. In the meantime, I have listed 13 tips that have helped me process the thoughts and feelings that arose while watching ’13 Reasons Why’.

Don’t Binge 
By ‘binge’ I mean try NOT to watch it all in one, two or even three sittings! I started off watching an episode a night but it just became so gosh darn addictive. I ended up watching the last 8 episodes within 24 hours and it all became a bit too much for my troublesome brain.

It is a great, well-produced, keep-you-hanging-on-the-edge-of-your-seat show and I totally get not being able to wait for the next episode but if you have ever experienced suicidal thoughts, sexual assault or bullying, it can trigger some pretty intense memories.

Watch it with a friend, family member or significant other
The show triggered some unpleasant memories for me so I found watching it with my partner to be very comforting. The last thing I wanted was to be alone while processing these thoughts!

Cuddle with your pet
I love cuddles with my kitties anytime of day but it’s especially comforting during traumatic times. Did you know petting your cat (or pet) can trigger calming chemicals which help reduce anxiety (and stress)!

Have a box of tissues handy
This applies even if you aren’t affected by mental illness. Elements of the story can apply to most of us, especially the angst of being a teenager in high school. I found myself to become quite emotionally invested in some of the characters (which isn’t unusual for me!), but given the content – it affected me on a much higher level.

Avoid watching it in bed
Don’t watch TV in bed the ‘studies’ tell us. It’s tempting, right? We all do it anyway but maybe leave this one for living room viewing. Bed is meant for calmness, rest and not laying awake remembering all those awful things that happened 10 years ago in high school.

Treat yourself to a nice, steaming cup of tea
Chamomile is my preferred brew, those calming properties!

Surround yourself with comfy cushions and a snuggly blanket

Break up each episode with something funny or a mind-numbing reality TV show
Cough, Kardashians, cough!

Chat with your peers about mental health
This is important. The thing I love about this show is that it has everyone talking about their own experiences with mental health – I only hope that the talking will continue!

Write your thoughts down
This is extremely helpful if you are having flashbacks of similar experiences you may have shared with Hannah or any of the other characters. You don’t need to share it with anyone, or even go back and reflect. Just write whatever is going through your head at that time, I find writing incredibly therapeutic.

If you are struggling, talk
Despite the image of counsellors and responsible adults portrayed in the series, there are so many people and organisations willing to listen. If you aren’t sure who to approach or are uncomfortable talking to someone you know, you can find a list of contacts here that are able to point you in the right direction.

Encourage others to watch the show

Watch ‘Beyond the Reasons’ 
‘Beyond the Reasons’ is a 30 minute behind-the-scenes episode which includes the cast, producers and mental health professions discussing the issues surrounding the series. It’s available on Netflix and I highly recommend watching it after you have finished the series.

I hope you find them useful and if you have any other strategies that helped you while watching 13 Reasons Why, please pop them in the comments below!

5 Comments

  1. April 26, 2017 / 10:38 pm

    As a therapist who works with a lot of people going mental health concerns and crisis, I thought it was important to watch this series. I really resonate with a lot of your tips here to take care of yourself if you’re going to watch this series, as a lot of the content and scenes were quite intense. I made sure to only watch one episode at a time and checked in with myself before and after each episode to make sure I was okay emotionally. I haven’t watched the behind the scenes episode yet but I’m going to check it out soon. Thanks for sharing these great self-care tips!

    • Sarah
      April 27, 2017 / 4:24 am

      Hi Heather,
      Thanks for stopping by!
      It’s nice to hear that as a therapist, you thought it was important to watch the series. I hope more mental health professionals follow your lead 🙂
      – Sarah

  2. April 27, 2017 / 7:25 pm

    I’ve been a little hesitant about watching this series; although, I must admit that I really want to. Not necessarily for “entertainment” purposes, but because I want to try and understand mental health/mental illness more; especially if I’m going to continue to pursue a career in Psychology.

    But about those Kardashians though! Mind numbing….haha!

  3. April 29, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    Great tips! I wish I’d read them before watching the show. I did identify with Hannah quite a bit and it had me quite upset at times. Totally agree with watching “beyond the reasons”. It’s good to understand where the producers were coming from when they made the show and certain choices they made about particular scenes.

  4. Sarah
    May 1, 2017 / 5:38 am

    Thanks Alison!
    It was a tough series to get through and found myself to be very emotionally exhausted by the end of it x

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