‘13 Reasons’ opens teen discussion of suicide

Imagine feeling lost. Depressed. Weighted down. Imagine sitting in class every day not knowing what was wrong. Being consumed by society, eaten up by high schoolers and spit out as if you were nothing. Imagine being so frightened of the pain that the only way to escape is by taking your own life. Just imagine because that is how Hannah Baker felt, and, who knows, maybe the kid sitting next to you feels the exact same way.

Clay Jensen, a shy and awkward high school student, comes home from a somber day at school to a puzzling package on his steps. He comes to find out that the mysterious package is seven double-sided cassette tapes, recorded by Baker, a former classmate who had recently committed suicide. Each tape is designated for one person, all 13 people listen, and once a person is done they will pass it along to the next without a word. Within the tapes is Baker’s story of her life and why her life ended, leaving 13 reasons for those 13 tapes as her trademark.

Netflix’s newest series has captivated viewers, spun mixed emotions and has resurrected the still current and big topic, teen suicide. This show is real, raw and at times unsettling. “13 Reasons Why” is not intended at all to be easy to watch, from the graphic rape scenes to experiencing an actual suicide of Baker, this show brings awareness to many or the issues pertaining to high school students.

“13 Reasons Why” is not made to promote or glorify suicide and teen depression. It was created, filmed and produced merely to show how teenagers deal with such extremes like depression and anxiety. It portrays how many schools and communities view and act upon with controversial topics like this and helps bring to light of just how in the dark adults, schools and communities are, that shut out the topic of suicide.

This story is not meant to be romanticized, create a game of a heavy issue or start a copycat rampage. No, this story, this show, this series is about bringing out awareness of high school suicide, making sure people are aware of what is going on and simply to teach kindness.

Junior Makenna Carroll said she would rate “13 Reasons Why” a 10 out of 10 and would definitely recommend to watch it.

“I thought the show was really powerful and that it shows with everything we do. It has a reaction and makes an impact on people’s lives,” Carroll said.

She said she believes that the show is realistic, but there are some extremes that she doesn’t think high schoolers now would deal with. Carroll also argues that “13 Reasons Why” is controversial but can be very educational on how high school struggles can weigh on some people.

“I think that teen suicide and depression is a real thing and is prominent in school that no one really wants to talk about, and I feel as though it should be addressed more often, and this show is a perfect segway into that.”

Carroll also said that she does not think that parents, teachers, administration and peers are fully aware of how big an issue suicide is.

“I don’t think the adults really have an idea of teen depression and what we go through every day just because our world now is so much different from theirs. I think by taking the time and watching this show, it could help them and others understand.”

According to Youth Suicide Statistics, suicide is the second leading cause of death from ages 10-24 years old. Another statistic is that four out of five teenagers who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs to those around them.

Some warning signs include changes in the way they talk and present themselves, changes in behavior such as using illegal substances, harming themselves, being withdrawn and changes in their mood like feeling depressed, anxious, rage and loss of interest. More signs and other information can be found at AmericanFoundationForSuicidePrevention.com.

Co-director of Alive and Running Troy Belmer said he believes there is more of a stigma that comes with the younger generation than previous generations, and that social media plays a part in big topics such as suicide, depression and anxiety.

“I think there is a deeper stigma than there ever has been, and I would tie a lot of that to social media. There is just a lot less interaction. Kids aren’t as good at opening up and talking to adults who can help,” Belmer said.

Being the co-director of Alive&Running Suicide Prevention, Belmer is actively involved in support groups, visits and talks at local high schools and marketing for the organization. Belmer also has met with multiple families and parents of suicide victims as well as people who are feeling depressed or suicidal.

“Our feedback from parents and teenagers, I can say, no the current school system isn’t up to date, and that they wish there was a better curriculum out there. I think sometimes schools see it as too controversial, and they don’t want to deal with the whole ‘what if.’”

Belmer also said he believes and has received feedback from multiple parents and students, that there are so many misconceptions to administrators that go along with heavy topics such as suicide and depression.

“They aren’t trained well enough to look for warning signs. I think schools are aware of a problem, but aren’t sure of how big it has become and think it’s just kids being kids.”

Nineteen-year-old Dunkerton graduate Chelsea Dean agreed with Belmer, saying that her community and a lot just like hers aren’t comfortable with the topic of suicide.

“I would say many are uncomfortable. In the ‘13 Reasons Why,’ that has become a huge thing, and it’s real. A lot of times when you talk about it, people just shut it down and aren’t educated enough on what plays into depression and suicide,” Dean said.

Dean has faced numerous obstacles in her life so far. She has dealt with depression and started self harming herself in her freshmen year, was diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia and attempted to commit suicide April 12 of last year.

Because of the constant struggles, obstacles and walls that had been placed in front of Dean, she has now been able to remain strong and get through her good and bad days with the support of her friends and family.

“I’ve seen and heard of people making jokes and rude comments about suicide, about self harming and mental illness in general, and I don’t think they realize how serious it really is.”

She has spoken at Dunkerton High School and one other school about her experiences with suicide and depression. She said she believes that there isn’t much help when it comes to such problems because the topic is pushed so far down no one is willing to open up and talk.

“I feel like it’s just shoved away and people don’t want to talk about it. At my school, if you’re feeling anxious or depressed, you can talk to the counselor, but it’s not really going to do anything. There needs to be more programs and support groups or something.”

So yes, there can be many takes, points of view, perceptions, opinions, facts about “13 Reasons Why.”

The list goes on and on, but the truth of the matter is that suicide is a real issue. Sexual assault, bullying, self harming — these are all real issues among teenagers.

You never truly know what someone else is going through, what they have inside their head, what problems they are dealing with at school, at home, at work, within the confined walls of a cell phone.

You never truly know until you put yourself in their shoes, and I think this is what the author and producers of “13 Reasons Why,” the book and show, are trying to provide. Putting yourself in Baker’s perspective, experiencing her parents grief, watching how the school handles things, etc.

So, whether you agree, disagree or don’t have an opinion, let’s get a couple things cleared up.

First off, suicide is never be to glorified, joked about and romanticized. Second, everyone’s mental health state is different. Lastly, be kind to one another. Be humble, be selfless, be there for one another and listen because you just never know what another person is feeling. It could be the kid you park next to in the lot, the popular girl on the cheer team or that quiet guy in the back of your chemistry class. It could be anyone feeling this way.

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