13 Reasons Why

Suicide is NOT entertainment.

Here’s an interview I did with KUTV Channel 2 in Salt Lake City regarding 13 Reasons Why

Experts warn against popular Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’

I have a lot to say. I binged watched the show and took notes. I binged watched because I didn’t think I wanted to watch it at all. I wanted to be done as fast as I could. Warning, this is a long post and has spoilers. I haven’t watched the follow-up shows. I wanted my own opinion before I listened to cleverly crafted justification.

First – I experienced very few personal triggers. If you understand triggers, that should be all I need to write to speak to its authenticity. There were definitely truths for me and valuable lessons to be learned but it reminded me of an old adage; who would eat a brownie if they knew it only had just a tiny poop hidden in it? There was more than a tiny bit of poop in this run-a-way teen hit.

Do I feel it has started a conversation? Obviously. However, following a horse in a parade starts a conversation about poop in the road. Is that the best way to appreciate or learn about horses? Could be a starter, but certainly not the best. I feel like we’ll be cleaning up after this show for a while.

Every real story of suicide is painfully private and personal. We all grieve differently. Our loved ones were vastly different yet somehow we share suicide like a closely guarded private club. If you’ve not been there, then don’t think you get to come in and organize our meetings. It ain’t happening. I resent Gomez for using such a powerful platform yet getting so much wrong – the very most important parts wrong. Yes, I know she didn’t write it but she rocketed it into the public domain in full color.

In Utah, the number one method of suicide is a firearm at 47%. I believe that would change to drugs if we were more willing to call overdose suicide – which is exactly what it is in the very minute someone chooses to take mind numbing drugs in an effort to cope with a pain. The second is suffocation at 43%. That includes hanging. Third is other at 10%. Nationally, the numbers change; firearm at 50%, suffocation at 27%, poisoning 15%, and other is 8%. Very few if anyone sits in a bathtub and causes such self-harm. That was solely for dramatic effect. It was no service to the cause of suicide prevention. The worst – it WOULD trigger a suicidal person. So so so entirely irresponsible. Yes, let’s talk about it! No, let’s not push people towards it. I wonder how the stats will look in a couple of years right around the time this show was its most popular.

Yes, every suicide counts. My sincerest condolences to anyone who does have that history in their family.

Maybe the most valuable character on the show was Alex. I watched him head downhill. I wondered if anyone would notice his spiral. When he straightened his closet, I knew. His story was so much more realistic to me. But again, we all have different stories.

This is when I’m going to get ugly. So, you may want to stop reading here.

Hannah was bullied. Absolutely no doubt. Hannah was mean. She was as snobby as those she was mad at. How I wish the show would have brought her to the brink and then showed a way out by highlighting resilience! Now, that would have given hope! But, no. The show instead decided to dramatize suicide. AND to show how to bully the bullies! Please tell me you understand how asinine that is!

The one thing that I think was real about how Hannah reacted was that she interpreted everything she heard as an attack and she felt innocent for the most part. That is evidence of mental disorder. And yes, we can call teen life mental disorder but wouldn’t have been so much more powerful had they pointed that out.

Also, she went numb, felt like a burden, and wanted the pain to stop. Those were accurate and sort of thrown in to hit more talking points.

So let’s talk about what she did. Tapes? Really? To inflict shame, not guilt, but SHAME? I spent a good 2 years finding out that my Hannah’s friends felt responsible and setting the record straight. Kids went to therapy because of it. IT WASN’T THEIR FAULT. For things as simple as not going to lunch with Hannah, they felt responsible. What a horrific story to lay at someone’s feet!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Yes, we can and SHOULD learn from our mistakes – that’s guilt and it’s healthy. But this show was ALLLLLL about SHAMMING and that’s incredibly harmful. Now, I know people who have lost kids to suicide because of bullying. They are good and dear friends. In no way am I dismissing bullying. My sons were bullied in the extreme. I started an anti-bullying bill and helped it to pass. I am NOT saying this movie missed the target completely. What I am saying is that it didn’t get close to the bullseye and the lesson was so far off the mark that it nearly justified suicide. I want kids to know that if they are being bullied, they have options to heal, don’t you?

The rapes. That was my experience almost to a tee. I wasn’t triggered because I am healed. I thought that was a good wake up call. It was very realistic.

The school counselor never said the words! “Are you thinking about suicide? and Do you have a plan?” In real life, that question would have kept her alive and put her family on alert. ASK the question! Suicide doesn’t kill. Our FEAR of suicide does! That goes for the one contemplating it as well. I’m not shaming. I’m pointing out a mistake and a way to save lives. We get to feel guilty and we get to change. I refuse to shame anyone because shame is what drives people to self-harm. So, ask the question! And then help them get help!

Hannah’s mom and dad. My Hannah was not bullied the same way if at all before her suicide. And I’m very grateful. She was when she was a couple of years younger. She fought back to become a 9th grade Officier. I didn’t have any of the anger that they portrayed in the show and again, very grateful. I know some of my friends have had this anger and some still suffer with from it. I get the anger. I also see how it keeps people stuck. My internal moral code kept me looking for self-resolution which included forgiveness. I’m glad it did because sitting in that dark cloud of anger and resentment for longer than necessary is excruciating.

The way the mom reacted while going through Hannah’s stuff was very real to me. The way she became a zombie, didn’t care about her clothes, or hair was exactly what I went through. Wanting Hannah’s friends to be with me, exactly. What I didn’t do was interrogate or blame anyone. I knew of some the self-harming coping methods being used by some of them. I knew they were scared that I would find out. I was very direct. I had just experienced what secrets do to a soul. I was in no mood to shame or help them keep painful secrets. I learned a lot about parental denial during that time. What I did that worked was got honest with the kids and gave them a safe place to talk. And they talked. They still do.

Obviously, I value the concept of learning from my Hannah’s death. What I don’t agree with is shoving it down someone’s throat. There was no criminal act outside of the rapes and illegal use of drugs. The fact that they addressed the culture of silence worked for me. Having all the kids turning on one another was hypocritical and painful to watch.

That brings me to drugs and drinking. Just like suicide, we have to stop being so ashamed of our kids actions that we live in denial! Both are a bright flashing warning sign that something is wrong. Those things are evidence of pain unresolved. Don’t shame a child because they don’t know how to cope! Help them to cope!

We don’t always see the warning signs. Kids are really good at hiding from us. It’s their job to learn to stand on their own. It’s a delicate balance that is our task to learn. And in the end, it is a choice. Try telling a suicidal person suicide isn’t a choice and watch them shut you out.

We all do the best we know how in any given moment. All of us. Period.

I want to touch on the tapes. I’m annoyed that anyone would think it could be or should be the norm for a suicidal individual to take the time to secretly tape hours of history with the intent of emotionally torturing those they felt bullied by. Really? Is this what we want to teach our kids? And the show made it effective. Made it seem good. Sick. Sick. Sick. I’ve known a few kids now that have completed and many who wanted to but didn’t. NOT one was vengeful. They didn’t think that highly of themselves. They may have considered revenge but by the end, they were too defeated. Doesn’t mean all are that way. In any case, there would have been much better, more powerful ways, to show the detrimental effects of bullying.

And finally, let’s talk about the useless tactic of blame. This show blamed to shame. Guilt! Is good. Blame incredibly destructive. This script took delight in blaming, loudly. In Clay, it caused psychosis and near suicide. In Alex, it lead to suicide. In the kid with a camera, we are set up to believe he will be the next mass school shooter. In all the kids it produced detrimental effects that the show gives us no evidence that they will recover from. Are we to say, “Good! They deserved it!” Is that the goal? Tragic! Again, bully the bullies? If so, then we perpetuate the systemic problem itself because shame is at the root of every single person who ever has ended their lives. And that shame is a liar. And like all lies, it drags us by the hair kicking and silently screaming into the darkness. Eventually we give up and go willingly because we know no other way to end the pain. And THAT is suicide.

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