Have you heard the hype about the book and Netflix series 13 Reasons Why?
The gist of story is that a young girl commits suicide, but leaves behind messages outlining her “13 reasons why” she did it. Some school boards voiced concern that the story glorifies suicide in that the girl got loads of attention from her friends, family, and school because of her actions. The experts say that the situation is glamorized to a point that there is fear of copycat suicides by vulnerable teens. Trigger warnings at the beginning of episodes have been added to warn the watcher that content may be distressing.
In the series, Hannah, the young girl reached out to friends and a school guidance counsellor but signals, warning signs, and cries for help were either glossed over, or missed completely. No one took her seriously or recognize that she was trapped in a downward spiral of victimization from bullying, peer gossip and self isolation. She didn’t always make the best choices, whether it was substance abuse, silence, or self sabotage, but the desperate darkness that overtook her and drove her to a place beyond hope is what the series is about. It’s also about those left behind.
The show is realistic and kids will identify with the characters, experiences and happenings. For some, school can feel like a hellish prison with no end in sight. It is the world they live, the world they know and the cesspool can be smothering and dank. When you’re in it, it’s hard to see past the end of the day, let alone the so called ‘future.’ The old time rites of passage (suck it up, don’t be a baby), are now identified as abusive and degrading. The young people today have so much pressure and expectation on them that it can be, and is, overwhelming. If a parent thinks that a show like 13 Reasons Why, is fake or that their kid isn’t being exposed to such rough and abrasive language, behaviour, and truths, they best get their head out of the sand. Whether a kid is bullied at school, the victim of some unspeakable horror, or using drugs and alcohol, the sum and substance of life can be pretty brutal.
The issue of suicide has always been touchy and taboo. Believe me, I’m no expert and the last thing I want to do is pass judgment on anyone. I do know that in my own community there have been teen suicides. Very little is ever said, privacy of the family is respected, and the public have no idea what, if anything, is done for the family, friends or fellow students of those who’ve taken their own life. It’s shrouded in mystery and that’s where,13 Reasons Why, takes that cloak off and illustrates some ugly truths. I know it’s not the whole story and it can’t be dealt with in a small column, but it can start that conversation.
I read somewhere, suicide happens because all hope is gone, but where there is light, there is hope. 13 Reasons Why is a bright light on the issue and the beginning of a conversation that needs to be had whether we like it or not.
I’m not in any way looking to minimize the situation or the serious underlying issues faced by troubled young people, but today I offer you, 13 reason why NOT …
You are loved. Someone, somewhere loves you.
Suicide is permanent. Situations change. Suicide is not about a transition or another realm it is final.
There is help. Don’t stop reaching out. If you have to change schools, therapists, or whatever do it. Sometimes change is healthy and offers up a different perspective. Talk to a teacher, a pastor, an auntie, someone who can help steer you in the right direction.
You may be the only one who understands someone else’s pain. You are needed.
You don’t want hushed whispers clinging to your name, your family, your home. That is not who you are.
Things will change. Your life, your world, your everything will evolve give it a chance.
It isn’t OK to hurt others around you by causing your own death. This is the harsh reality. By killing yourself, you leave a legacy of pain in your friends, family and even for those first responders who have to attend the scene. That’s not OK.
There is help. Whether it be in the form of medication, counseling, or spiritual awakening.
You are not a burden or worthless. You have a place in the world and you must stay to claim it.
The future is far away and doesn’t matter right now. I get that, but if you can look, even with squinted eyes, and see yourself another day, another week, another month it can keep you going
Suicide is self murder. You are not a murderer.
If you have any training or upbringing in the church, you’ll know that suicide is a sin. God loves you as you are and you must fight to find another option. Cling to that if it makes you stronger.
You are worthy of love and a life going forward. You are going to get off any, and all, suicide sites and reach out for help. You’re worth it. I know you are!
Mental health issues can be deeply camouflaged, but the conversation has now began. Crisis 24 hrs: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)
Faye Arcand is a freelance writer living in the South Okanagan.