Last month, I (and the other parents at our children’s school) received an email from the headmaster informing us that many of the middle school kids were watching the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” without supervision.
The series, in case you’re unfamiliar, is about a teenage girl who dies by suicide after being betrayed by classmates and friends, witnessing a rape and being raped herself. She leaves behind cassette tapes exposing the culpability of her classmates for her death.
I decided to watch the series even though my children aren’t aware this show exists.
I’m a mother of daughters, and having been a teenager, I was curious. This series is important, because it started a conversation and exposes the destructive nature of human behavior enmeshed with technology and its role in isolating and ostracizing a person with a press of a button.
I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a teenager today. There is no safe place anymore. I used to be able to escape the bullies the moment I closed the car door and drove away in my parents’ protection. That doesn’t exist now.
I related to the main character, Hannah. She tried to do the best she could. She even wrote about it, privately. A classmate from her poetry group stole an intimate poem of hers and splashed it in the school newspaper. It remained anonymous, but she knew; it devastated her.
There was a scene that hit me hard. Hannah and her friend, Clay, sat on a park bench as he read the anonymous poem. He looked up at her and said (paraphrased): This person is seriously messed up. I know I wouldn’t want to be friends with them.
It crushed her.
And that’s why I’ve chosen to write out loud: adults and adolescence need to know that there is somebody else who thinks the same demented thoughts and has felt despair and ideated. What would it be like if I wasn’t here anymore?
We need to share these low points, because, they help others feel less alone in their struggles and hopefully our openness will prevent those who feel cornered in anguish, and contemplate escaping through death.
Recently, the World Health Organization released their report on preventable deaths among adolescents. What was the third cause of preventable death among adolescents, ages 10-19? Self-harm.
And, it begins with a conversation. Those who are struggling are too ashamed to ask for help. So, it’s our responsibility:
How are you today? Really, how are you?
Show that you care, show that you mean it. Open up the conversation and G-d willing, save a precious life.
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.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-DONTCUT for the S.A.F.E. Alternatives hotline.