I don’t want to be Hannah’s Mum!
I’m a big fan of Netflix and Amazon Prime, as a couple we often fill our evenings bingewatching fabulous new films and series. I’ve just finished watching the Netflix series ‘13 Reasons Why’. We watched this coincidently during #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek. It really rattled me leaving me unnerved for the future of my kids.
A little background…(without giving too much away for those of you who may watch it). The plot is a teenage girl – Hannah, who takes her own life. A culmination of events prompt her to record a series of 13 cassette tapes in which she explains the events that led to her loneliness and despair and why they pushed her to commit suicide. She asks a close friend to make sure that all the people in the tapes get them and listen to them.
Generally speaking and from an adult’s perspective most of the events are all about high school bullies and peer pressure. You know, boy meets girl, boy meets different girl! Boy rejects and humiliates girl, boy humiliates girl again, girl spreads lies about girl-friend etc. But to a teenage girl these are major issues in self discovery and growing up. Teenage girls (and boys) are vulnerable, so very vulnerable. They take on board every glance, every word, every absence and every action. In a way they are very self centred, I mean this in the way that they think everything revolves around them, that everything is connected to them somehow. They are the cause and they are the effect in their world. I don’t mean in a selfish way, just that they have a very heightened sense of self awareness (in fact i’m still a little like this myself!).
However for Hannah, the final event understandably leaves its mark (you’ll see if you watch it). The last episode is not one for the faint hearted. It had me in tears. A brutal conclusion from weeks of teenage agony. A conclusion that not only punishes the people who contributed to events that led her to take her own life but also severely punishes those closest to her, the people that actually really love her. This love seemed to have faded into the background of Hannah’s thoughts as the weight of her problems overwhelmed her.
The programme got me thinking about my children. I know they are only little and I probably shouldn’t dwell on the matter too much. I do wonder though what their future holds and the thought that these pressures lie ahead scare the shit out of me. I hope that we can prepare our children for the future and give them the strength to stand up to these pressures.
In the series Hannah and her family are portrayed as a typical family, her parents are happy but have money problems, they have a good relationship with their daughter too. Hannah’s mother is tormented trying to understand what possibly led to her daughter’s desperate state of mind. She recalls past events and always had the opinion that her daughter was level headed. But Hannah doesn’t talk about her problems, she puts on a mask that tells her parents ‘I’m ok’. She bottles up her anguish and the result is suicide. This was the hardest part for me. That to her parents there were no obvious warning signs.
High school was tough whilst I was growing up. I always wondered how best to fit in, I always felt awkward. Sometimes I felt like I stood out for the wrong reasons, sometimes I felt like I faded into the background. But these days I think kids have it so much harder. Yes they are fortunate in comparison to what most of us had in terms of material items and lifestyle but the pressures are immense. I think modern life is very heavily focused and dependant on technology. This allows and and almost pushes them to grow up way too quick.
Social media being one of the biggest issues. Social media is with you so long as you are with it. Teenagers want approval from their peers and so put themselves out there to be judged. Sometimes this goes well and sometimes it goes horribly wrong. Social media is ready to showcase the good, the bad and the ugly times in all their glory. Whilst social media is in a prime position for showcasing and commending diversity it can also be abused. When I was at school there were no mobile phones, so no dodgy photos being taken and spread around or vicious messages spreading like wildfire! No social media meant that once home you reached a sanctuary. Not any more.
Film and media don’t help either, portraying ‘ideal’ images and lifestyles that teenagers aspire to. But when you think about it who would want to watch a film where nothing exciting happened to a regular family doing regular everyday things? I really hope that my children see past the Kardashian swaggertastic lifestyle and the model images of gaunt pouty and quite frankly moody looking faces. This is not real life. Not even close kids!
All I can do is be the best parent I can. Technology may be important and there is without doubt a place for it in everyday life but I try to make sure we value time away from technology just as much. I try to let my daughter know that she can talk to me about anything (and I will my son too of course). Some days she will talk to me about ‘issues’ at school like when another child tells her that they don’t like her or that they’re going to tell on her. Whilst in the grand scheme of things, these aren’t really big world problems but they are big issues to her. So I listen and take her seriously and try to offer advice. I want them to talk to me because we all know that talking is key when it comes to getting support. I will continue to strive to give them the confidence they need and the courage it takes to overcome problems. I want them to know that they matter and that I am here for them be it after school or that 2am call for mum taxi! Will this be enough? I don’t know. I hope so. I really don’t want to be Hannah’s mum.
Watch the trailer: