13 Reasons Why: Suicide Shouldn't Be Netflix Fodder

I was 13 when I no longer wanted to live.

I remember the moment, standing in my awkward undeveloped body in a circle of girls. One arm full of heavy books, one heart overflowing with pain. I had no words except these, "I won't be back next year." I threw them out like a cumbersome weight in the middle of giggles and discussions of Saturday night plans. The words were ignored by myself and others. I had no idea why I said it nor knew what I meant.

At the age of 23 I stood in a cold white bathroom unable to feel my body. I only knew one thing.

I wanted to die.

This time, it wasn't words of a teenage brain, it was the intention of a young woman who had no place for her feelings and no place for her pain.

My intention was to end the pain. To end the suffering. To find relief.

I awoke in and intensive care unit of a hospital, with a tube down my throat and a second chance at life.

I now want to live.

Today I am 44 and my heart breaks for that sad young me. The one standing in her 13-year-old body the same sad young woman at 23.

Why is this important?

What I can tell you for sure, from my own LIFE experience and CAREER working in a treatment center...of the deep and utter torment of young minds who battle wanting to die, 13 Reasons Why would have been fuel for my fire and can be used as such now for those struggling.

If you are a parent and haven’t heard about it, you need to. And there is plenty you need to know about it.

I would have drank a show like this in like the Kool-aid of my youth, a show offering me reason to die. Offering me ideas on how to die. And offering me a vision of life after my existence where those who harmed me would suffer.

Mental health issues -- and the help that's available -- are barely discussed. Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder are very real things that Hannah (the main character) and other characters in the series struggle with. However, the opportunity to model both the struggle with the issues and the options that are available for addressing them -- whether that means talking with a trusted adult who actually listens, to pursuing the right kind of mental health support -- is missed. Instead, the focus is on suicide as a revenge act.” - Fox, Levine and Associates

13 Reasons Why was first a novel and then turned into the popular Netflix show.

"Sequences of terrible things happen to Hannah, and we don't get a feel for her internalization until she kills herself," Dr. Victor Schwartz, medical director of the JED Foundation, told NBC News. "None of that stuff is made clear because it's focused on the horrible things people have done to her. The whole thing is an extended revenge fantasy." - NBC

Why does suicide need to be glorified?

Only one month ago I sat crying in a church with thousands of others mourning the loss of a beautiful and vivacious young woman who took her own life. This was not the stuff of a television series. What happens in your mind when you are struggling can not be depicted for television.

What happens to those left behind can not be expressed on a screen.

There are no words. It is horrific and tragic.

“Suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for 15 to 24 year old Americans.” - Teen Help

It isn't pretty. It isn't Netflix binge watching fodder. 13 Reasons Why is pop culture capitalizing and making money off of a devastating illness. It makes me sick.

While some might argue the show brings up the topic in our homes, I counteract that a show like this is only fuel for a fire of an undeveloped teenage brain.

"Netflix isn't going to pull it and kids are watching it, and they're binge watching it without anyone helping them process it," Alongi said. "We feel it was done irresponsibly and we don't agree with many portrayals including of Hannah's death, memorialization, and placing blame on others.” - NBC

I don’t know what released me from the haze of my teenage angst when I was 13, when I was 23 I got a second chance and took it. And I got help. Lots of it. Now at 44, the mother of three teenage boys, I will not sit by and be silent about such a cheap and harmful message being sent out to teenagers.

So what do we do?

I encourage you to educate yourself and work to understand mental illness, not from a Netflix show, but from experts.

“Our kids are navigating the teen years like all teens before them but with this added tool that can be used for good — or for bad. It’s up to us to remind kids to pause before posting and to use empathy above all in social media actions.” - Savvy Cyber Kids

This website has a list of 13 Reason’s Why Talking Points. Read them. Print them off.

More importantly, be aware of the shows your teens are “binge watching”. Educate yourself and the adults around you.

I want my children TO WANT to live. Don’t you?

If you or someone you know needs help, call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also text HELLO to 741-741 for free, 24-hour support from the Crisis Text Line. Outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of resources.

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