As I was making my second way through the new book turned Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, I was triggered and yet fascinated at how easily mental health can be swayed. Of course, young minds learn a lot from what they have seen rather than what they know, but in watching this show I reached a higher realization in just how much of an impact the words you say and how you treat people matter. I won’t speak too much on the show for those of you who haven’t had a chance to listen to all of the tapes yet, but in seeing the things Hannah went through during her short stint at Liberty High, I wondered if I had been blind to this side of youth growing up. Everyone’s high school experience is different, but situations that played out in this story were very different from what I had seen and experienced. Which leads me to think, well it is just a show, right? No, there are girls like Hannah, boys too that are experiencing this range of emotions daily. I cannot relate with ever getting to the point of wanting to take my own life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t empathize with those who do. Now while the show doesn’t center around the mental health of black youth, I realized just how much the mental state of our youth or even ourselves is often not touched on. While I’m sure if Hannah had reached out to her parents she would have been affixed with the best therapists out there, minorities don’t always have that option. We often times have to rehab ourselves. Black kids often times have to figure it out themselves. Is that to say that if black youth reached out to their parents or support system when their mental state was low, that nothing good would happen? No. I think as black males growing up, we are taught to be strong in every sense of the word. To throw some dirt on it and keep your head up. Black females taught to be seen but not heard. And in being preached at on these matters, other topics rarely come up. Mental health should be talked about often regardless of if you’re a minority or not. And even if you aren’t going to talk to your parents, go to your friends, show them your cards. This then brings the question of how well do you really know your friends? There’s a phrase that says you never really truly know what someone is going through. I think that us as people sometimes we’re afraid to open up about what is bothering us, or what we are struggling with. This makes us humans, but understanding that there are people there to listen to you when you struggle can make a huge difference. Knowing that could be the difference between taking your life or moving on. Speaking of black youth, there were a couple of black characters on 13 Reasons who seemed white-washed to me. Sheri and Marcus were your typical token black girl and boy of the group. Neither embodied how I would think a black teenager would act in a situation like this. This further heightened my thoughts on the disproportion of action on mental health amongst the black community. Mental health? Suicidal? Killing yourself? “Oh that’s white people shit”, a phrase I’ve heard numerously through my 24 years here. But the demeanor of the characters in this show kinda fed into this phrase. Struggling with mental health is not something that black youth experience, so let us make sure our black characters are only suited for those black bodies who grew up in all white neighborhoods. Now while not maybe seeing an accurate depiction of yourself in this show, there was still no shortage of characters that I’m sure many people will be able to relate to. I think Hannah and the rest of 13 Reasons Why will shed a much-needed light on mental health, not only of the youth but us all as humans. I know that as a black male, after watching I feel a lot more educated and aware of the importance of everyone’s mental health. And I now know that moving forward and being a light, you never know whose life you could change. I pray that the mental health of minority groups doesn’t go unnoticed and that it can rise to a priority and stay there. Until next time, more ideas and stuff coming.
Oh yeah, my first guest post on UNIDAYs debuted Monday. If you didn’t get a chance to check that out you can here 6 Reasons Drake’s New Album is the Playlist of the Year