The Netflix series, “13 Reasons Why,” has received a lot of attention, even more than the book did when published 10 years ago. I have read the book, watched the series, and have been asked numerous times to share my thoughts. Here is my take.
“Silence kills” are words I’m reminded of often in my vision of zero suicides. For me, the most powerful part of this series is the call-to-action I see growing as many individuals are seeking to educate themselves and use their voice.
Breaking the Silence
Suicide is no longer a word spoken only in a hushed voice or whisper. This series has turned up the volume. I’m getting calls from worried parents, requests to collaborate on appropriate messaging, emails from individuals expressing concern, and an invitation for a guest appearance on WTMJ (AM620 RADIO) to discuss this series.
At LiFE OF HOPE, a nonprofit I founded in 2015, programs are designed around Three Pillars of Influence. Our primary pillar is Awareness, and 13 Reasons Why has resulted in more individuals, groups, and organizations not only becoming aware, but actively seeking to spread this awareness to other connected parties.
For this I am grateful. I am honored and humbled to serve the current demand for education and support.
Opportunities for Education
I understand 13 Reasons Why is a story, but as it is receiving so much attention, and some individuals might be sensitive or harmed by the messaging they perceive, there are a few specific areas that deserve our time and consideration.
- The series portrays the behaviors of 13 survivors of suicide loss as the reason for the suicide. Survivors of suicide loss typically place a great deal of unwarranted blame on themselves. These individuals often need care in the form of therapy or support groups to cope with the loss. Suicide is a “choice” based on a distorted reality; things will never get better. It is in this state of mental pain that a LiFE-ending choice might be made and the behavior of others is not to blame for this. Additionally, the awareness, education, support, and connections necessary to forge a path of HOPE and healing can come from anywhere (and hopefully comes from everywhere), as well as the affected individual.
- Individuals suffering from suicide ideation may sometimes do so in silence and feel alone in this process. For those who watch the show to seek solace with a kindred spirit or discern a way out, will unfortunately find role modeling that doesn’t provide any path to HOPE and healing. Instead it presents an alluring power, control, and promise of being heard only after death. This is a glamorized, harmful, and misleading expectation.
- Finally, as a suicide-attempt survivor, I would be remiss if I didn’t share my concerns regarding the final episode. As graphic as many of the images were throughout this series, including the images in episode 13, I can assure you an attack on your body to end your life is not the peaceful endeavor portrayed. The body will fight back in extreme measure, jerking, thrashing, and crying out in pain (making this one scene you would never forget – assuming you had the stomach to watch). This is significant. As Dr. Joiner explained last night, the fear of death and physical pain is one of three key protective factors to suicidal action. No individual considering suicide should be misled as to a calm and quiet conclusion.
Above, I wrote, support for an individual suffering with suicide ideation can come from anywhere and hopefully comes from everywhere. The problem comes into play when the only support an individual receives is through stories such as 13 Reasons Why. Suicide is a permanent solution to a distressed view on reality and any messaging to an individual suffering with suicidal thoughts should include these words.
The more awareness, education, and support an individual considering suicide has, the more informed they will be to make the best choice for themselves (and for those who love them). We can’t let a Netflix series (schoolyard bullies, overbearing bosses, or any other negative influences) be the only voice someone we care about is hearing.
There are many paths to achieving hope and healing, and the first step lies within. If you’re struggling to ask for help from someone close to you, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline or walk into your local medical clinic, mental health clinic, or emergency room. Share that you need immediate help for active thoughts of suicide. If they can’t help you directly, they will make sure you are put in contact with someone who can.
Silence Kills – Connection Heals.