Psychology in 13 Reasons Why: Episode 2

Losing a good friend is never easy, especially if you don’t understand why you lost them in the first place.

In this powerful Neflix original series episode we learn about Hannah’s friends, Jessica and Alex and some of the factors which contributed to her later dying by suicide. These factors are important to consider in terms of suicide awareness and prevention.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Hannah does not have many friends when she starts at her new high school, so her guidance counselor, Ms. Antilly, plays matchmaker in introducing her to another new student, Jessica Davis. The two connect over their use of dry humor and sarcasm.

Their friendship evolves when the two create “an office” and connect over hot chocolates at the local coffee shop, Monet’s. There they make another friend, Alex, and the trio form an FML (F**K my life) club, in which they support one another. As much as the rumors about her sleeping with Justin bother Hannah, her new friends support her in this, which allows her to better cope with the rumors and slut-shaming that she is experiencing.

However, the trio does not stay together long. At first, Alex stops coming to meet them at Monet’s and then Jessica stops showing up. Neither gives Hannah an explanation as to why they stop hanging out with her. She later finds out that the two are dating.

Arguably, it is not the fact that the two are dating that upsets Hannah, but rather that they hide it from her and stop hanging out with her. However what ultimately escalates Hannah’s struggles is Alex’s list.

Alex and Jessica break up after Alex makes his infamous list judging girls on their appearance. In this list he rates Hannah to have the “best ass” and Jessica to have the worst. The list makes its way all around the school, with no one except Hannah attempting to get rid of it. Hannah actually throws it out but her classmates fish it out of the trash and keep passing it around.

By making this list, Alex inadvertently makes both girls targets for harassment (more on that in Episode 3). Rumors spread that he slept with Hannah and he does not deny them. Jessica suspects that Alex is cheating on her with Hannah, so she breaks up with Alex, accuses Hannah of being a “slut” and slaps her.

The power of this episode is that it shows how important friendships are, in particular during adolescence, although they are important throughout our lives. Although Hannah experiences some truly horrendous things later in the school year, I believe that had she had the support of her friends, her FML Forever club, she might not have died. Friendships, support networks, allow us to feel supported in some  of the most challenging situations, whereas facing painful experiences alone can make some people feel incapable of coping and may lead them to consider suicide.

It doesn’t take a lot to make a huge difference in someone else’s life. It might sound cliché but sometimes all we need is someone to notice us, to show that they care. One of my closest friends, Travis, is a Marine Veteran, who was previously diagnosed with PTSD. He is now a peer counselor for other Veterans with PTSD and I’m sharing his story with his permission.

Not too long ago Travis came in to work and saw a man wearing a hockey hat sitting in the waiting room. Travis opened a conversation with the man, asking him about hockey. The man was reserved but started opening up eventually. Travis found out that the man was a Vietnam Veteran and had PTSD. The two men discussed their experiences and connected over hockey.

A week later Travis saw the man again. The man was waiting to see him and told him that he planned on ending his life the previous week but that having a conversation with Travis put him in a better state of mind. The truth is that we never really know what other people are going through. It doesn’t take a lot to be kind. It doesn’t take a lot to ask someone if they are okay. Every moment is an opportunity for action and in every action there is a chance for us to make a positive impact on someone else’s life. Make it count.

If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, call National Suicide Prevention Hotline, 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text “START” to 741741.

Other resources:

For bullying survivors:

Sexual assault survivors:

Dr. Janina Scarlet is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, a scientist, and a full-time geek. Her book, “Superhero Therapy” released on December 1, 2016 in the U.K. and on August 1, 2017 in the U.S. If you would like to learn more about Superhero Therapy, contact Dr. Janina Scarlet TwitterFacebook, or through her Psychology Today Blog.

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