Teen suicide: 13 Reasons Why Not

Teen suicide: 13 Reasons Why Not

In the month since its Netflix release, “13 Reasons Why” has drawn both accolades and criticism for its no-holds-barred portrayal of a suicidal high school student bullied and abused by her classmates.

Based on the young adult novel by Jay Asher, “13 Reasons Why” has been described as "unflinching and raw ," "dangerous," and "authentic, uncensored.”

Selena Gomez, executive producer of the series, said she wanted to adapt the story for television to help people, “because suicide should never be an option.”

In 2014, suicide was the second-leading cause of death for ages 10 to 24, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One in three U.S. students say they have been bullied at school.
With statistics such as those as a backdrop, it's easy to understand how “13 Reasons Why” has inspired new conversations about bullying and teen suicide.

Yet the dialogue stirring among teens stands in sharp contrast to the isolation experienced by the main character, Hannah Baker. In one episode, she speaks posthumously to her friend, Clay, saying all she needed from him was a “lifeline.”

We talked to teenagers throughout Central Pennsylvania about creating a lifeline for their friends and classmates who are depressed or anxious, who self-harm, or would consider ending their lives. What would they say, we asked, to persuade teens that suicide isn’t the answer?

From their thoughtful responses, we compiled 13 Reasons Why Not:

  1. You are stronger than you think. Justin is an 18-year-old high school student who once considered suicide and now organizes speakers and support groups at his school. “My depression comes and goes, and when I'm depressed it's the worst feeling ever," he said. "I know that my depression won't ever go away, but I continue to realize how strong I can be.” Mack, a 17-year-old cyber student, felt similarly: “The harm that comes your way only makes you stronger as a person. Instead of harming yourself, you can live to tell your stories, and pass that strength on to someone else.”
  2. You aren’t really alone, no matter how it may feel. Katie N., 18 and finishing her freshman year of college, shared, “No matter how lonely and dreadful it feels, someone is still there for you.”
  3. You mean something to somebody. Jack, a 16-year-old high school student, cited “the people whose lives you've touched in a positive way and who would miss you more than anything else if you decided to go.” Katie A., who is 17, wrote a song called “Sunset” for a close friend lost to suicide. “Losing one of my friends that way was the hardest thing I've ever been through, and I wish she would have known that there is so much light in the world and so much love for her," she said, "and even though it's hard to find that joy sometimes, a future full of possibilities is greater than whatever pain is in the moment.”
  4. Professionals can help. Katie N. spoke from her experiences and suggested to “try to find help. ... I have found that talking to a professional is really beneficial.” Justin said, “It sounds cliché to say, but it truly does get better, and I'm glad that I got the help that I needed.”
  5. There’s goodness and happiness in the world if you can navigate to it. Katie N. said, “Sometimes the rough patches seem like they have been going on forever, and maybe they have been, but there is goodness and happiness out there somewhere, you just have to be willing to navigate through the bad stuff to find the good stuff.”
  6. God promises he loves you. Cameron, a 15-year-old high school student, made a testimonial video for his church youth group. In it he shared, “Most of you know me as the really happy, crazy kid. What you don't know is that for the majority of my life I've struggled with depression. ... I thought ending (my life) would be better than living another day where I was ... . (God's) given me a new hope.”
  7. You will wreck the people who love you. Alexis, 17, who lost a best friend to suicide: “My reason 'why not' is this: for the people who love you because you leave so much hurt to the ones who loved you the most and they don't deserve that.” Their mutual friend Jeremy, also 17, agreed: “The reason why not to me is simply this. You don't realize how many people will miss you when you're gone and what you mean to people.” Mack, 17, observed, “Suicide passes that pain on to the people who love that person.”
  8. Death shouldn’t be on your terms. “No one should ever have to experience the untimely loss of someone they love,” said 20-year-old Will. “When my mom died I thought I did, too. There were so many things that never got to be said. I would never make that someone's reality on purpose.” David, 18 and soon to graduate high school, said: “God is the only one with the authority to decide when we die.”
  9. Life gets better. Hold on. Speaking of his experiences, Justin shared: “Teens that are contemplating suicide need to know that there are people who do love them and just need to hold on another day. It will get better.”
  10. Problems are temporary. Suicide is permanent. Emily, a 19-year-old college student, said, “it’s not gonna be like this forever. Especially to teens I would say that they have many more years to come and how they feel right now might not be how they feel in a year or more. They would be resolving their issues with a permanent solution to a temporary problem.”
  11. Your life is a story. Live to tell all of it. AJ, in middle school and on the verge of becoming a teen, said, “Our life is like a book. There are good parts and bad parts, but if you just stop reading you never get to know how the story ends. What if the ending is really, really good and you totally miss it because the middle sucked for a while?”
  12. Someone out there knows exactly how you feel. Katie A. shared, “Talk to someone about what you’re feeling because there's a 100% chance that someone you know is going through the same exact thing.” Justin said, “It's hard to tell someone that you’re depressed because you don't know how they are going to react, but speaking up is the first step.”
  13. You have a future full of possibilities. Emily said, “You have your entire future to meet new people and be anything you want to be.” Mack summarized, “There is so much to live for past the stressful situations in high school. Everything gets better with age.”

Whether it takes places in schools, businesses or other organizations, bullying can have grave consequences. Family Design Resources can help you prevent it. For information on how our experts can assist with training and consultation to prevent bullying , please contact the program office at 717-236-8570.