My take on “13 Reasons Why”

I was just reading a fellow blogger who slammed the Netflix series called “13 Reasons Why” by Selena Gomez. 

If you haven’t seen the show, it is about a teenage girl named Hannah, who commits suicide, and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes to explain the 13 reasons why she committed suicide, and each cassette tape chronicles a negative experience by 13 people who each hurt Hannah in ways that led up to her suicide.

The other blogger said there is never a reason for suicide, and labeled suicide as a mental illness. I take issue with both of her points.

First of all, I believe there are times for suicide, and a person should have the right to choose that for themselves. In most of these situations, I am referring to someone who is suffering so badly from a mental or physical illness, that suicide should be that person’s right to choose for themselves. Obviously, if something like that is not going on, I would hope in a fairy tale world we could help everyone from committing suicide because of a temporary situation or feelings, especially teens.

With Hannah, we all have to remember first and foremost that this character was a teenager, and if you can remember back to your teenage years, everything seems like the end of the world and most teens can’t see their way out of that spot they find themselves in. In other words, teenage judgment is not the best because their brain is not fully developed.

In Hannah’s case, she had more than your average negative teen experiences in high school, and it is no wonder she committed suicide. Hannah was severely bullied, teased, harrassed, humiliated, and sexually assaulted at least twice, depending on how it is defined.

Her parents were not bad parents. They seemed like they were probably typical parents in many ways in that they were struggling with adult problems, but showed their love and support for their daughter. And I imagine like most parents, it was really hard to get a grip on what is really going on in their teen’s life. Teens are not the most revealing bunch, even when they have good relationships with their parents.

I especially take issue with the other blogger making the statement that there are plenty of mental health resources a teen could go to, and Hannah’s school counselor was just a fluke in how he didn’t help her when she went to him. The truth is I haven’t seen a school yet, neither private or public, that has enough school counselors to help the number of kids they are responsible for. I have worked in the field, and there are never enough counselors. Even where I live now, our school system is known for having a lot of resources, yet there is only one counselor for my child’s entire middle school grade. So, no, there aren’t enough school counselors to help all the kids navigate this difficult time of their lives.

I don’t see suicide as a mental illness. There are lots of mental illnesses that lead to suicide, but by itself, it is not a mental illness. Hannah clearly had some depression going on, but I think that is fairly common at this difficult age. And I don’t think that was the reason why she committed suicide. Mental illness was not the cause of her suicide. She made the best choice she could under her own circumstances.

I think she committed suicide because she was bullied, broken, and sexually assaulted so much that she had no reason to hope her life was going to get better. She even reached out to the school counselor for help, and he failed her. Life failed her, like it does so many children who commit suicide. And we are failing them by raising children who might bully or sexually assault another child.

I don’t fault Hannah for what she did. She didn’t see any other way out, and many of us have been there before with less coming at us than Hannah experienced.

I think the show is a good show for adults and teens 17 and over to watch. As a parent, I do worry about younger kids seeing it because it is graphic, and in some ways she really was successful in completing “revenge suicide” against the 13 people who got her to that place. I worry other kids will think that is how it will play out if they commit suicide. It won’t. Life will go on without them, and they will likely leave behind terribly hurt and broken people who loved them, and the ones who hurt them will likely just shrug their shoulders and go on.

It’s a show. There is good in that it is getting people talking and thinking about teen suicide, and I hope bullying, substance abuse, and sexual assault among teens. 

It is bad in that none of us wants a teen to commit suicide. Unfortunately, they will, and we have to hope parents talk to their teens about this show in a way that is helpful from both the victim and perpetrator angles.

I am a firm believer teen suicide can happen to anyone, and most people disagree when I say there is a little bit of luck that plays into the kids who don’t do it. 

I work hard to prepare my kids for the world, but I know at some point it is out of my hands. There is a gap between when we have them, and when their brains are developed enough to make good decisions. I pray that my kids get that little bit of luck and the wisdom I will try to pass onto them that gets children through this difficult period of their lives.

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