We’ve just finished watching the series ’13 Reasons Why.’ It’s about a teenage girl, Hannah, who kills herself; and the 13 people she blames for her decision.
My feelings on it are mixed. It graphically depicts issues such as self-harm, rape, addiction and suicide; all of which need to be discussed. It also teaches us how to spot warning signs in vulnerable teenagers and to ask, ‘what would I do? How could I have helped?’
These are vital questions; but there are a few problems. The message we see is more powerful than the one we hear. So whilst we hear that suicide is no answer; what we see is that Hannah has no choice. From the very outset, suicide is a done deal. As viewers we shout “Don’t do it!” and reflect on the alternatives, yet the whole series is a slow march towards the inevitable. This is very dangerous, especially for those who are tempted to feel “there’s no way out.”
Hannah was let down by other people. She was hurt in terrible ways; and she is right to demand justice. But in the series her ‘suicide note’ becomes a weapon of revenge. And, unhelpfully, it kind of ‘works.’ In the show there’s a tragic justice that is unleashed through her actions – everyone gets what they deserve. But in reality, suicide does not accomplish anything, let alone justice. It’s only tragic.
So how do we respond to these issues – especially to teen suicide – other than simply saying, “Don’t?”
One school in the States leads the way. Instead of ignoring the show, they’ve engaged with it. Thirteen brave students have shared some of their stories about bullying and depression and have given reasons to fight for life when feelings of death overwhelm. Each day they’ve broadcast to the school 13 Reasons Why Not.
Here are some of my reasons –
Because you are not what’s been done to you or what you have done.
Because you have options – your story isn’t finished.
Because by simply living you accomplish something – you give the gift of yourself to the world.
Because your body and life are worth more than the value you place on them.
Because there will be an accounting for the sins committed against you; but God is the avenger and not you.
Because you belong to others – to a God and a people who love you.
Because things will look different. And sooner than you think.
Because others have come through what you’re facing, and you will too.
Because there are other ways to see this situation, even if you can’t right now.
Because there is beauty everywhere.
Because there’s a positive step you can take right now; like asking for help.
Because there’s a you in there created by God, who will come through this stronger, wiser and more beautiful than you can imagine.
Because in time, and perhaps because of these struggles, you might save the life of someone else.
What would you add?