13 Reasons Why is the TV drama that has been needed for far too long. You, like me, may have spent a decent proportion of the last few weeks of your life watching this, and if you haven't, you should do. It's real, brutal, and sometimes too difficult to watch. It has its cliches and stereotypically profound one liners littered throughout it, but it's so honest it hurts.
It's not the story of a fictional teenage American girl, it's the story of millions of children and adults around the world that experience bullying and mental health problems day to day, month to month, or even just once in a blue moon. There is no prescriptive scale when it comes to these things, it's impossible to measure. People experience hurt and trauma in so many different ways to one another that no matter how many theories, books and studies you write, it cannot be categorised or given a name.
I couldn't watch all of the last episode - when I was younger I found a friend of mine in the bathroom after she'd cut her wrists. We were a school full of students with issues, and I don't think we were a rarity. I'd lost my dad suddenly, my friends had eating disorders, my best friend's mum was chronically ill, there was bullying and most of us drank and took various recreational drugs. We had what we thought was just a lot of fun at the time but we never dealt with our pain and we felt weak to admit it.
Mental illness can't be explained sometimes but it will always, always be present. It's still such a taboo and it needs to stop being so. As cliched as a lot of the lines in 13 Reasons were, the truest spoken was the admittance that it's ok to not be ok, and that you have to talk about it and be honest. Life hurts and it can be fucking awful but it's never too much to take yourself away from.
This morning I sat and listened to Bryony Gordon's interview with Prince Harry about his own mental health and his charity Heads Together. The work that he, William, Kate and their team is doing to increase the visibility of mental health issues and keep the conversation going is invaluable. His story and mine are in some ways quite similar. We both lost a parent suddenly at the same age and spent the next 2 decades answering "are you ok" with "yes I'm fine". When really we weren't. We also both starting taking counselling around the same time and realised the benefits of having those conversations. It's great that he is highlighting the importance of not brushing mental health under the rug, but this is something we all need to be doing day to day, building into our office culture as well as our homes.
When you're mentally unwell, you don't wear a bandage, a cast or a badge. It's invisible, but the effect spreads far and wide. It destroys lives every day because it's not spoken about enough, and we need to change that. Whether it's about watching a Netflix series or listening to a podcast, the conversation needs to start somewhere. So when you go to work, school or even just a coffee with a friend, start the conversation.