With the wide-spread use of the internet and mass media, how we obtain our news and information is drastically different than it was 10 years ago. In the same thought, the way we seek out our entertainment is no different. Netflix and Hulu are at the cusp of innovation, with 110 million people subscribed from this past year alone. Long gone are the days where cable television held a stronghold on a monopoly of influence with the American public. With this audience tuning into streaming services at a growing rate, comes new opportunities to present fresh ideas that may never have come to fruition on standard TV.
In recent years, few issues have been brought to the surface like the problem surrounding the stigmatization of mental illness. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans suffer from some degree of mental illness every year, according to a study done by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
“13 Reasons Why”, a Netflix original, is the newest binge-worthy series to invade our timelines, tweets and Instagram feeds. And with good reason. The subject manner is controversial at first glance: A 16-year-old commits suicide and leaves behind tapes to all those who influenced her decision to take her own life.
Critics on both ends of the spectrum praise it for further opening up a dialog around the topic of mental illness and the epidemic among young people but others refuse to support the show for perpetuating a dangerous ideal of suicide fantasies.
As someone who’s struggled with mental illness for a better part of 21 years, the importance of destigmatizing discussion cannot be understated. Yet, the trend of glamourizing various illness as a “quirk” alongside thick-rimmed glasses or snorting laughter is also unhelpful. There needs to be a balance.
While Netflix’s platform doesn’t have a rating system like traditional TV, the measuring stick of its success can be seen from the oldest form of advertising: word of mouth. According to an article from Variety, “13 Reasons Why” has been the most tweeted about show of 2017 thus far, with 11 million tweets on the platform and counting.
When it comes down to it, education and a showcase in a real way are essential to understanding topic of mental illness. Getting help and counseling has been an integral source for my own strength and why I’m able to pursue dreams of my own. From this experience, it’s how I’m optimistic anyone can do the same. Even you, reading this right now. Stay strong.