Right now, one of the most talked about books, and the number one bestseller is Jay Asher’s, Thirteen Reasons Why. Have you heard of it? Have you read it?
It is also an extremely controversial Netflix series that is produced by Selena Gomez and she refers to it as her “passion project’ on Instagram.
Warning this post may upset some readers as it is discussing suicide. Please do not read if you feel it will be too emotionally difficult of you.
It is controversial, because let’s admit it, it is based around suicide, and suicide is a hard topic to talk about! I know, I have have been forced to face suicide in my life because I lost one of my very best, closet friends to suicide many years ago, and I am still not over it! In fact no one close to her is. Suicide is painful, it is heart wrenching, soul destroying and life changing for all those who loose someone they love to suicide, and for the person who took their life it is permanent. There are no do overs, no take backs. My friend is gone, we buried her on a freezing cold, rainy winters day in the cold ground, it is final, I can never get her back! I will never laugh with her again, I will never hug her when she is sad, or dance with her around the house, we will never again spend all night talking, I will never, ever be able to tell her how much I love her again. I miss her like you wouldn’t believe, I dream about her like she is still here, and wake up knowing she is not. It is crushing.
My friend took her life after a series of tragic events that ultimately left her in physical, and emotional pain. Events that led to deep depression, and feelings of despair and loneliness. It didn’t matter how much we loved her, she felt alone, and hid all to well the fact that she was loosing the will to live. When she died, she died alone. It was winter, cold and grey, and no one was there in time to stop her. There was nothing glamorous about her death, nothing peaceful, or beautiful. I will not say how she did it, or where she was, but it was painful, not quick, not beautiful, just lonely and scary. That is how my best friend died, my fun loving, gorgeous friend with a generous heart, the bluest eyes, and luscious blonde hair, died scared, cold and alone. How the F*** did it come to that? Why was no one there to stop her? Why was I not there? How do I ever forgive myself for missing the signs? How do any of us? Our other friend arrived ten minutes too late, ten minutes!
I was away when she committed suicide, our other friend rang me and told me that not only was our friend gone, but just days before her death she attempted suicide and was placed in the hospital. Despite knowing she had attempted to kill herself the medical system and her family failed her, and she was released. Two days later she took her own life.
I was so angry that no one had told me that she had made an earlier attempt, I was angry at her doctors, her family and at myself. Should I have known somehow? I had tried calling her just a few days earlier, no answer. I left her messages asking how she was, and told her I hoped she was ok. I told her in that message that I was thinking of her and how much I loved her, as I knew she was having a hard time. I was surprised she hadn’t gotten back to me, but I hoped it was because she was dong something fun and was too busy to chat. I will always wonder if she got my message, I will never know.
So what were her reasons? What are any ones reasons? That is what this book and series is all about, a young girl, a teen, who leaves tapes instead of a suicide note in order to explain her reasons. 13 Reasons. But is it really so clear cut, can anyone really put a number on the reasons that lead them to take there own life? I don’t believe they can.
I haven’t read the book, but I was told about the Netflix series by a teen and her mother. They were watching it together and were gripped by it. They recommend I watch it. To be honest I wasn’t sure it was something I could handle. I find reading or watching things based around suicide very hard. But I watched it. I sobbed.
Now I will warn you, if you watch this, it is very graphic, there is nothing peaceful about the way this teen girl takes her life, it is painful, and disturbing to watch. I had to close my eyes.
After I watched it I asked the teen girl who had told me about the show what she thought. She told me that it made her think about how everyone treats each other, how words said as jokes, banter, teasing, or what might be considered mild bullying is never ok. It also made her feel that suicide is NEVER an option!
But others are concerned that it will spark a trend in suicide, that through history it shows that suicide is contagious.
I believe that suicide awareness, and myths surrounding suicide should be discussed. That as a society we can’t just ignore that many people, including teens take this option! But is this show the way to start the discussion? If I had a child 15, 16 or older teen, would I want him/her to watch it? I don’t think I would. And if you do have a teen who is asking to watch this, I would recommend watching it yourself first and then make an informed decision. And then if your child does watch it, please watch it with them, talk to them and have open and honest conversations as the teen I know and her mother have done. But please really consider if this is something you want your child seeing.
What I liked about this show was that it really made me think about bullying, and how serious it truly is, and how for some it can be the beginning of the end. To be honest I think it holds some really important messages for parents, for school teachers, and guidance counsellors. As a mother of an almost teenager, I am glad I watched it, as painful as it was. But again it is not something I would want my child watching.
Again I stress to you that it is graphic, and not just the suicide scene. It is sad that this series is in many ways a snapshot of reality for many teenagers. Issues like peer pressure, sex, alcohol, bullying, drug use, domestic violence, loneliness, rape, being gay, isolation, trying to fit in, and mental illness are all things that many teens have to face, we can’t ignore that! Even if your teen isn’t suffering directly, they probably know someone who is having hard time at school, or at home.
I am not saying watch this show, but I am saying as adults we need to be aware of the issues that teens face. And not just teens. Suicide, bullying, domestic violence, loneliness, isolation, and feelings of despair don’t just happen to teenagers. If you are worried about yourself, or someone else, please seek guidance! Just asking a work college how they are and actually meaning it can make a huge difference. Checking in with your parents, grandparents, or friends can make a difference.
Here are some links you may find useful. Just click on them to open them up.
If you or someone you know needs support, please talk to someone close to you, seek advice or guidance from your GP, or find an organisation that will help you. Sometimes the first GP you see, or counsellor may not give you the right feeling, so please get a second opinion if needed. Don’t give up!
Shortly after my friend passed someone else very close to me became depressed. I specifically asked this person if he was having suicidal thoughts. I was afraid to ask, but I was not going to lose someone else, and sometimes we have to ask the hard questions. He told me he wasn’t planning it, but he also didn’t know how he could go on living. I immediately found him help. I fought for him to get the help he needed, and thank God after a lot of hard work, treatment and counselling, he is still here and is enjoying life, laughing, playing sport, and embracing the future! You can make a difference.
There is an interesting podcast that goes for ten minutes that discusses the Netflix Series. I will share it here. This is from Mamamia.com.au
I would also recommend reading this article if you have teens. It is Caitlan Bishop. How to Talk to your child about suicide.
I know intellectually that I am not to blame for what happened to my friend, but if I could go back there are many things I would do differently, and maybe she would still be here.
Please let me know your thoughts below.
Thank you for joining me, love Mackenzie xx