There's no question that there is a serious stigma surrounding mental health. No one wants to talk about it, and who can blame them? According to the media, it ruins lives. We've lost countless celebrities in the last few years to depression and substance abuse, and all that's ever said is that it's sad, before various media outlets start ripping them to shreds. Sitcoms make jokes about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and anxiety on a regular basis to terrible canned laugh tracks. Society teaches a very basic lesson that equates sadness with bad and happiness (fake or not) with good, and that lesson is harming people far more than it's helping them.

That's where '"13 Reasons Why" comes in. The book -- and now a Netflix show -- tells the story of Hannah Baker, a high school student who commits suicide, and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes explaining why she did it, to all the people who had a hand in leading to her death.

It's not all emo music and dark makeup

Before it was a hit tv show -- pre-Netflix, even -- it was a young adult novel. I remembering reading "13 Reasons Why" when I was 12 or 13 myself. I remember getting to the end of it and being more than a little overwhelmed by the subject matter. Luckily, even as I battle my own inner demons and Mental illness, I have a support system, and resources to help me.

Hannah Baker, the main character in the show, didn't have that.

The cast of the show, all fresh faces to the silver screen, spoke openly about how rough filming some of the more graphic scenes in the show was for them. Katherine Langford, the young actresses behind the girl on the tapes, was hit especially hard. Selena Gomez, the executive producer of the show, brought in therapy dogs to help the cast get through the toughest parts.

The real cure-all

The overall story is not perfect, as it plays a pretty heavy blame game. It also gives far more credit to "golden boy" Clay than it probably should, and leans too much on the idea that love can fix everything (including mental illness), which can be really harmful to people.

It has, however, successfully gotten the conversation started about mental illness.

Celebrities have joined the ranks, speaking out on the need for support and information, while Twitter hashtags and Facebook conversations have popped up everywhere about the topic. It's a really fantastic start, but as a society, we need to be doing more. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Stop equating mental illness with "broken." People spend their lives going day-to-day with mental illness taking a huge toll on them, but they do it with a smile on their face and a spring in their step
  • Don't speak over people who have personal experiences with mental illness. It's good to want to have a voice and bring attention to this issue, but neuro-typical people (those who don't suffer from mental illness) should know when to step down and let neuro-divergent people tell their stories
  • Do some research. The more you know, the more of an impact you can have.

Together, we can make a huge difference. We just need to get started.