Payal Kaur

Payal is a senior at Rutgers Business School studying Finance, Chinese & Creative Writing. She's the president of the Business Governing Association, she plays club basketball, and is a member of the Road to Wall Street Program. She's editing her first novel and will be working full-time at Deutsche Bank as a Global Transaction Banking Analyst.

Bullying & Suicide Should Not Be Taboo

Kids are still taking their own lives and it is because they are not receiving the help they need from parents and teachers.

Today’s generation is much more comfortable with starting conversations about their mental health and expressing their emotions. According to an article from the American Psychological Association, Gen Z is more likely to report their mental health issues and take action than other generations. Given these statistics, why is it hard for us to give bullying and suicide the attention they require? 

In a society where we are progressing in reaching out and getting help for ourselves, why is it still difficult for us to help others?

A study from 2017 on showed that 70.6% of young people have witnessed bullying, and 70.4% of school staff have seen it too. With such high numbers, why are bullying and its correlation with suicide still taboo topics? 

I believe that bullying is not a direct cause of suicide; instead, it is a factor that drives someone to the edge. The show “13 Reasons Why” depicts the correlation between the two issues, as well as the consequences associated. When I watched the show, I connected with it and felt a slight nudge of comfort. Media has covered bullying in movies and shows before, but not usually as the central topic. 

I experienced bullying in middle school and I am still feeling the effects of it now. 

There were moments when I contemplated ending my life because I had stressors—in addition to bullying at school—that had become burdensome. Unlike the character Hannah Baker, I did not take the extra step and actually end my life. 

I would wake up with thoughts of killing myself and hating my life. I even went as far as researching different ways to end my life. What kept me going was the potential that my life would get better. 

The thought of becoming someone successful and being able to travel the world fueled my desire to live and get help from a therapist. 

It wasn’t easy for me to find a therapist. All of the barriers, like insurance coverage, finding someone who was taking new patients, and someone who wasn’t hours away from me, made it tough. I decided to pay out of pocket and was able to find someone who would take me on as a new patient. I was eventually successful in getting treatment, but it was a journey I had to take on my own.

On “13 Reasons Why,” there was limited intervention from adults—therapists or otherwise. As sad as this may be, it is a sliver of truth about how schools handle bullying. I reported that I was being bullied to one of my teachers and the excuse she gave me was that, because the girl was an athlete, she was stressed and was taking it out on me. 

I was told to suck it up and deal with the bullying.

Our generation is told to suck up our feelings and “deal with it” from older generations. The show hit home for me because, as explicit as it may have been with the suicide scene, it is not far off from reality. Kids are still taking their own lives and it is because they are not receiving the help they need from parents and teachers. 

People have varying views on the explicit nature of the show, but I believe that the show is exposing the truth that most of us turn a blind eye to bullying. Even though there are anti-bullying laws, bullying is still very prevalent in our society. The effects of being bullied are still lingering in us today, as demonstrated by the statistics I mentioned earlier. 

“13 Reasons Why” sparked a conversation about bullying and suicide because both are still not taken seriously in schools. In my personal experience, administrative staff and parents assume that the problems that children face are minuscule compared to their own. School is a child’s whole world, and when something goes wrong in that world, the children resent it. When someone asks for help, they should be able to get it and not be shamed for it. I am grateful that a show like “13 Reasons Why” exists because we need to keep the conversation moving. 

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