I read this book in high school, one that Netflix recently decided to turn into a miniseries, and for once I think they got it right. The novel and the show are called Thirteen Reasons Why, and this novel had so much meaning for me personally when I was in high school.
It’s about Suicide.
13 Reasons why a young girl with all of her life ahead of her, with everything to look forward to, would make this most drastic decision to take her own life. The young girl in the series is named Hannah. But she could be any girl. She could be every girl. She could have been me.
Suicide is something that has impacted my life more than anything else I’ve experienced. My mother committed suicide when I was ten. One moment she was there, and the next she was gone. It ripped my whole world apart in a way nothing else could have. It still has a huge affect on the way I see the world, the way I respond to situations, and the way I connect with other people.
My father moved us out east shortly after. Things seemed to be getting better, we seemed to be moving forward, to be healing. But then the brother of a classmate committed suicide when I was in the 6th grade, and for the next 4 years suicide was a thought that went through my head every day. I didn’t know why I felt the way I did. I didn’t know how to make the feelings stop, I didn’t know how to ask for help. And this is something I think the show portrays better than anything else.
A young person in that position, who has had their world rocked by something traumatic, or by multiple traumas, may never stop to map out exactly why they feel the way they do. They probably won’t sit down and record 13 tapes or audio files outlining all the reasons why their life suddenly has become the hardest place to be. But that doesn’t mean all the reasons aren’t there. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk about them. That doesn’t mean they can be swept under the rug.
I had reasons. More than 13. They stuck to me every day and followed me around like a shadow. To anyone who looked close enough it was obvious that there were heavy things on my heart and on my mind. But as an adolescent I reached out to people who were wholly unequipped to handle that sort of thing, other adolescents. I talked to my peers. And they talked to their friends. But we didn’t talk to adults. Another thing the series gets correct.
As an adult now I can look back and pinpoint things that should have been obvious to people paying attention, warning signs that presented themselves over and over again, but teenagers can’t. They aren’t equipped to handle these situations, to have these conversations, to see the signs. So we need to help them. As parents, and teachers, and family members, and church members, we need to be paying attention. We need to be listening to what they aren’t saying. We need to be teaching them to express their emotions in healthy ways and helping them understand what their emotions really even mean.
This miniseries does an amazing job of illustrating the truth of how something so unthinkable as suicide can become something that seems like the only next step to a person. It helps paint the picture of a young girl, with her whole life ahead of her, who can’t see beyond the scope of her life right now. That’s when suicide becomes an option. That’s when it becomes the most likely next step. All the reasons snowball and grow until they are all that can be seen. We need to illuminate the rest of it. We need to show the young people in our lives that their lives are more than the sum of what they see on social media, at school, or in text messages.
This is what this series does a fantastic job of portraying. There is hope. There are other options. But suicide needs to be talked about and addressed. Our young people are living in a world we didn’t live in, dealing with experiences we never dealt with, and facing things we won’t understand unless we start having open and honest conversations
So if you haven’t watched this series yet I recommend you do. Or read the book. Or do both. Because all the reasons are there, there may be 13 or there could be more, and we need to be aware of what our young people are facing today. I survived my depression and my suicidal thoughts, but some young people don’t. And this is a tragedy that should never have to happen. Lets start by showing them all the reasons why life is worth living.