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13 Reasons Why: The Life and Death of Hannah Baker

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Psychology
Wordcount: 2734 words Published: 8th Feb 2020

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In the United States, depression is the second leading cause of psychiatric disorders that affects about 300 million citizens each year.  The main risk factor with regard to depression, would be having recurrent thoughts of death/suicide.  Suicide is the third leading cause of death in children and teenagers.  The main character in a television series suffered from a majority of pain, sorrow, and humiliation from her classmates in high school. The high school was not supportive/helpful in regards to her feelings/thoughts when it came to the mass amount of bullying. Depression can affect a citizen’s classification by affecting their life/activities, school and work, and social functioning.  An individual can express psychological, cognitive, behavioral, and emotional symptoms with regard to depression.  There are many resources and opportunities to seek treatment for depression.  Cognitive behavioral therapy, biomedical treatment combined with medication or brain stimulation, and psychotherapy are helpful towards for treating depression in the client. 

Keywords:  depression, suicide, treatment

13 Reasons Why: The Life and Death of Hannah Baker 

Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder, is the second leading cause of psychiatric disorders worldwide that affects 298 million individuals each year (Sue et al, 2015). In the United States, suicide is considered to be the third leading cause of death in children and teenagers between the ages of 10-24 years old (Kaslow, 2013).  Suicide is usually the main risk factor in regards to depression.  The Netflix television series “13 Reasons Why” is a portrayal of the main character Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after facing bullying, sexual assault, and lack of support from her high school.  Hannah recorded a series of cassette tapes explaining thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life.  She displayed number of depressive symptoms such as loneliness, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, and negative thinking all of which lead to her ending life. Depression can affect an individual’s classification by affecting their well-being, school, work, and social functioning.

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Hannah’s School Life

In the Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why”, 17-year-old girl named Hannah Baker, commits suicide at the beginning of her junior year in high school. The first season focuses on the individuals Hannah discusses on the cassette tapes.  The first two characters on the first cassette tape are Justin Foley and Jessica Davis.  Justin was the first guy Hannah had a crush at the beginning of her sophomore year.  While on a date at the park with Justin, Hannah went down the slide in a dress—inadvertently showing her underwear.  Justin took the embarrassing photo with his cellphone (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017). Justin showed the photo in school the next day to his best friend, Bryce Walker who group-texted the photo to the entire school.  Jessica Davis was Hannah’s first friend at Liberty High, since she was also a new student.  After the pair became close friends, they met Alex Standall at a local coffee shop.  However, Jessica and Alex started dating which led to an altercation between the groups of friends (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Jessica accused Hannah of having a crush on Alex over a “Best of, Worst of” list.  The “Best of, Worst of” list indicates different names of females that are categorized as having the “Best of, Worst of” figure. 

The second group of characters on the second tape was Alex Standall and Tyler Down.  Alex Standall created a “Best of, Worst of” list that stated Hannah had the best butt and Jessica had the worst at Liberty High.  This listing led the jocks to treat Hannah like a sex object (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Tyler Down was the considered as Liberty High’s “yearbook photographer”.  However, Tyler began stalking Hannah because he had a crush on her.  While playing a game of Truth or Dare, Tyler took a photo of Hannah and Courtney Crimsen kissing Hannah’s bedroom (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  After Hannah declined Tyler’s offer to go on a date, Tyler group-texted half the school the photo of Courtney and Hannah kissing. 

Courtney Crimsen and Marcus Cole were discussed on the third tape. Courtney was Hannah’s former friend after the photo of her and Hannah was released by Tyler.  Courtney decided however, to become “friends” with Hannah again and invited her to drive to the school’s dance.  At the school dance, Courtney started a false rumor about Hannah’s desire for a three-way and as well as the alleged sexual activities between Hannah and Justin (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Courtney made up the rumor because she was afraid that her secret about being gay would come out and realized how suspicious the popular kids were becoming.  Marcus Cole was the schools’ student body president and Hannah’s “Valentine’s Day date”.  On their Valentine’s day date, Marcus began touching Hannah’s leg inappropriately, which made her feel extremely uncomfortable (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  This led to Marcus stating that he only wanted to date her just have sex with her because of the rumors saying she was “easy” (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  

Zach Dempsey and Ryan Shaver were discussed on the fourth tape.  Zach initially had a crush on Hannah for a long time, which prompted him to express his feelings to Hannah after their encounter at the diner (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Hannah denied Zach’s feelings which led to an altercation between them.  During compliment day in their class, Hannah left a letter in her own compliment bag for Zach to read.  During an anonymous class discussion, Hannah left a note in her compliment bag that said “What if the only way to feel bad is to stop feelings anything at all, forever?” (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  This note represented the pain sorrow that Hannah was feeling.  This led Zach to not clarify the author of the note; thereby letting their classmates believe that someone else wrote the note.  Ryan Shaver was Hannah’s mentor who helped her write a poem for their daily poem sessions at school.  Ryan suggested to Hannah that she should publish her “work of art” into the school’s Lost and Found magazine/paper.  Hannah ignored the suggestion, but Ryan published her poem in the school’s Lost and Found magazine despite Hannah’s wishes (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017). 

The fifth tape Hannah talked about Justin and Sheri Holland. Hannah stated that there were three tragic events that occurred on the night of Jessica’s back-to-school party (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Hannah indicated that Bryce had sexually assaulted Jessica while under the influence of alcohol.  Justin was involved since he and Jessica started dating at the beginning og the semester, and Justin knew that Bryce had sexually assaulted Jessica the night of her party (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Sheri was one of the popular kids in school and Hannah’s friend. On the night of Jessica’s party, Sheri and Hannah were driving home when Sheri knocked over a stop sign.  This led to a car accident occurring at the same intersection, killing Jeff Atkins who was Clay’s friend/mentee/wingman and student at Liberty High. Before the accident occurred, Hannah convinced Sheri to contact law enforcement about the broken stop sign. Sheri refused however, since she was more concerned about getting in trouble (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  In school, Sheri expressed to Hannah that she is not allowed to speak to anyone about the situation. 

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The next two characters on the sixth tape were Clay Jensen and Bryce Walker.  Clay Jensen was one of Hannah’s true friends and someone she had always admired since the first day they met.  The night of Jessica’s party, Hannah confessed her feelings to Clay which led to them kissing in Jessica’s room (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  However, the kissing stopped when Hannah began having flashbacks from all of the jocks that humiliated/bullied her.  Hannah stated on the tape that she would have ruined Clay because of her “reputation”. Few days later, Hannah took a walk around the neighborhood and came across Bryce’s house party. Afterwards, Bryce sexual assaulted Hannah while the pair were in the jacuzzi together at his house party (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017). 

The last character who was discussed on the seventh tape was Mr. Porter, the school’s counselor.  After the sexual assault, Hannah decided to give life one more chance and sought help from Mr. Porter.  She expressed her feelings and thought about her experience at Liberty High and the incident at Bryce’s party (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Mr. Porter informed Hannah that if she is not able to confess about Bryce sexually assaulting her or involve law enforcement, that Hannah should move forward from the incident (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).  Hannah hastily left Mr. Porter’s office expecting that Mr. Porter would come after her due to the emotional and stressful nature of their discussion.  When Mr. Porter did not come after her, Hannah realized that her life did not have meaning to her classmates, the school faculty, or to herself (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).

Hannah’s Potential Syndrome: Depression

Hannah displayed symptoms that dealt with loneliness, worthlessness, isolation, hopelessness, suicidal thoughts, and negative thinking.  Hannah’s potential syndrome in this case would be Depression since it involves intense sadness and loss of interest in daily activities. In the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, Hannah expressed a majority of these symptoms while narrating her tapes and explaining her reasons. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V), the person should be experiencing five or more symptoms during a two-week period (Shelton, 2018).  A main concern with regard to depression would be recurrent thought of death or suicide. Anyone who experiences the symptoms of depression may act on suicidal thoughts if they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Hannah expressed these emotions to her friends while she was under the influence of drugs (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2018).

The Multipath Model is a model that explains the biological, psychological, social, and sociocultural aspects of certain disorder.  In the biological aspect, for depression, it merely focuses on the neurotransmitters and irregular brain functioning. There are low levels of neurotransmitters which are serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. Regular brain functioning can activate our neurotransmitters to regulate emotions and physiological processes including sleep, appetite, energy, and libido (Sue, Sue, 2017).   For the psychological dimension, this involves negative thinking, rumination, and learned helplessness. Beck’s theory states that people experiencing depression tend have a negative way of looking at themselves having a pessimistic outlook regarding their present experiences and expectations (Sue, Sue, 2017). Negative thinking can also lead to having irrational thoughts or ideas when dealing with depression.  For example, Hannah expressed a pessimistic outlook to Mr. Porter when she stated that her friend Clay Jensen hates her (Yorkey, Incaprera, 2017).   In the social dimension, lack of social support/resources and maltreatment can lead to an increase risk of depression.  For sociocultural aspect, culture, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender are associated with depression. Depression is more common in women than in men regardless of race/ethnicity or social class.  Research shows that depression is higher among women than in men (Sue, Sue, 2017).  Depression can also negatively affect an individual’s well-being, school and life/activities and their social functioning. This affected Hannah’s classification due to the deterioration in her grades, social withdrawal, reduced motivation, and pessimistic attitude.   


Depression can easily affect an individual’s well-being, perception of life, and social functioning.  The important factor for diagnosing a patient with depression is to be aware that the patient did not experience any hypomania or an episode of mania.  Clinicians are able to consider how severe and chronic the patient’s depressive symptoms may be.  Depression, also known as Major Depressive Disorder, follows impaired functioning due to having a major depressive episode.  This disorder usually occurs with severe depressive symptoms that can affect most of the day for at least two full weeks (Sue, Sue, 2017). Depression is more common in women than men regardless of race/ethnicity and social class.  Women have a 70% increased lifetime risk of experiencing Major Depressive Disorder than men, and are more likely to seek treatment for depression than men based upon physiological and psychological factors.  For example, life stressors can influence gender differences in regards to depression. This means that females have increased risk of encountering an emotionally stressful event, e.g. sexual abuse, which can lead to a lifetime risk of depression (Sue, Sue, 2017).  An individual’s cultural background can influence some descriptive depression symptoms, decisions for treatment, doctor-patient communication, and a prospect of outcomes. Depression can be expressed in regards to certain type of somatic/bodily complaints.  For example, Latino and Mediterranean cultures express depression in regards to having a headache.  Asian cultures are associated with weakness, tiredness, or “imbalance” and Middle Eastern cultures express complications of the heart and “heartbroken”. 

There are a majority of options to seek treatment for depression/depressive disorders.  This is important because longer depressive episodes can lead to long-term outcomes which means less likely chance for the symptoms to be improved.  Treatments for depression include behavioral activation therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.  Behavioral activation therapy can motivate the patient to participate in activities and have some social interactions.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is associated with changing any negative thinking/feeling in the client. Biomedical treatments for depression include circadian related-treatments, electrical stimulation for the brain, and the use of medication (Sue, Sue 2017).  A form of medication that can be used to help treat depression would be antidepressants.  Antidepressants can help increase the accessibility for the neurotransmitters in the brain, which includes norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.  Circadian related treatments involve resetting the circadian clock for sleep recovery to help improve sleep deprivation.  Brain stimulation therapies are used in case of life-threatening symptoms such as lack of eating and severe suicidal intentions (Sue, Sue, 2017). 


  • Kaslow, N. (2013).  Suicidal Youth and Their Families: Overcoming Barriers to Receiving Help. American Psychological Association, 2018. 
  • Shelton, J. (2018). Depression Definition and DSM-5 Diagnostic Criteria.  PSYCOM, 1996-2018.
  • Sue et al. (2017).  Essentials of Understanding Abnormal Behavior, 3rd edition. Cengage Learning.
  • Yorkey, B. (Creator/Executive Producer), Incaprera, J. (Producer), Trombetta, L. (Editor). (2017, March 31).  13 Reasons Why. United States: Netflix.


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