Thirteen Reasons Why is the story of one girl’s experience with bullying, and her decision to commit suicide as a result. Though the book does touch upon other pertinent topics such as bullying, the high school experience, rape culture, and machismo, the principal subject of Jay Asher’s book is teen suicide.
According to the American Psychological Association, teen suicide is a growing health concern. Data provided by the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that it is third leading cause of death for the fifteen- to twenty-four-years-old age cohort. About 60 percent of teen suicides are committed with a gun, followed by intentional drug overdose. Suicide rates also differ between young women and young men. Though girls consider and attempt to commit suicide twice as often as boys, boys die by suicide four times as often as girls. This is in part because boys tend to use more lethal methods (firearms, hanging, jumping from heights) than girls (drug overdose and cutting) ("About Teen Suicide," Kid's Health).
As Hannah, Clay, and Tony mention in the book, there are signs to look for if you suspect someone is about to commit suicide. A few of them are listed below:
- change in behavior and sleeping habits
- withdrawal from friends, family, and regular activities
- drug and alcohol abuse
- fear of losing control
- low self esteem
- violent actions or rebellious behavior
- unusual changes in or neglect of personal appearance
- personality change
- not tolerating praise or rewards
- giving away favorite possessions
- no hope for the future
- becoming suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
(Taken from the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry)
Clay and Tony retroactively realize that Hannah exhibited some of these symptoms, including withdrawal, giving away possessions, and suddenly becoming cheerful out of the blue. Clay laments that he and Tony recognized Hannah’s behavior for what it was far too late, but recognizes the signs in Skye and resolves to prevent her from following in Hannah’s footsteps.