'13 Reasons Why' Should Address Clay's Anxiety Head-On In Season 2
There was no shortage of issues explored in 13 Reasons Why Season 1. The controversial show's depictions of suicide, sexual assault, depression, and bullying were all difficult to watch, but for the most part, they seemed to ring true to the audience. In an interview with TV Guide, Dylan Minnette revealed his hopes for 13 Reasons Why Season 2, and in the process, he highlighted one issue the show touched on, but could stand to explore more in the future — Clay's anxiety.
It's Minnette's hope that Clay will be able to get his anxiety under control as the story continues, but the actor knows the disorder is complex. He told TV Guide,
"I would like to know that Clay is healthy and away from his anxiety issues, but I think if Clay were to fully separate from his anxiety that would be a little surprising because I don't think it's just easy to get rid of. I'm sure Clay's anxiety will come back into play."
As anyone living with anxiety will tell you, it manifests in a variety of forms. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting an estimated 18 percent of the adult population. However, authentic portrayals of what it's like to suffer from anxiety are rare in pop culture.
In Season 1, it is never explicitly stated that Clay has anxiety. Instead, the series takes a show, don't tell approach to the topic. From Clay's mother suggesting he try taking his medication again in the aftermath of losing two of his close friends, to the many moments when he finds himself feeling as if all eyes are on him, Clay's plight will likely feel familiar to someone dealing with anxiety. In one particularly challenging scene, Clay wakes up bathed in his own sweat, and is too overcome by the emotional toll of listening to Hannah's tapes to shower before school. It's a subtle, but painfully true nod to his illness.
Exploring Clay's anxiety in-depth could be beneficial to viewers who are experiencing similar symptoms, especially if the show tackles the topic directly. Because there are so many physical symptoms that go along with anxiety disorders, sometimes people are unaware of what they are suffering from, making it much harder to seek out help. Likewise, people who are well aware of their issues are often afraid to discuss them with others because of the stigma attached to all forms of mental illness.
Losing both Hannah and Jeff so close together, compounded by the stress of receiving the tapes, left Clay isolated with no real avenue to explore ways to manage his illness. If Season 2 features Clay not only seeking treatment for his anxiety, but also openly discussing it with his parents and friends, it could open up new avenues for real world discussions about a form of mental illness that is often misunderstood. More than that, if Clay finds a way to manage his illness, 13 Reasons Why could give hope to the many people who are suffering in silence.