With the release of “13 Reasons Why”, we have all spent hours curled up in bed, watching Hannah’s life play out. We have listened to all thirteen tapes with Clay, felt Hannah’s pain, experienced Clay’s anger and imagined the unbearable grief her parents must feel. We have all vicariously experienced the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide. However, the Netflix original series does so much more than provide some quality, binge-worthy TV. It teaches us about the realities of mental illness, sexual assault, suicide, and most importantly, how we can do our part now before it is too late. So, “get a snack. Settle in. Because I’m about to tell you” 13 very important things we can learn from “13 Reasons Why.”
1). Someone always cares. Even if it does not seem like it, there is always at least one person that wants to help if you will just let them. Which brings me to number two.
2). It is okay to ask for help. You do not have to go through anything on your own. Get professional help if you need it. Asking for help does not make you weak. It means you are strong enough to know that you need help and attempt to fight whatever you are going through.
3). In the grand scheme of things, this feeling is only for a moment. It may seem like things will never change, but they will.
4). Be kind. It truly makes the biggest difference. You never know what someone else is going through, and your words can make or break someone.
5). Learn the warning signs. They are not always what you would expect. If you think there is something wrong, reach out.
6). Watch your words. We all spitefully chanted, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” but we all know just how untrue that is. Hurtful words will pierce through your heart and leave damage far deeper and for far longer than any physical bruise will.
7). You do not have to just “move on.” It is okay to pause and work through things. Take your time.
8). Sexual assault happens more often than you think. If it has affected you, do not be afraid to report it or reach out for help.
9). If you know someone who is a victim of sexual assault, be there for them, but let them process it in their own way and on their own time (as long as it is healthy).
10). The show addresses real issues. According to StopBullying.gov, 49 percent of children in grades four through 12 have reported being bullied at least once a month. In 2015, about 3 million adolescents experienced depression. RAINN.org says that an American is sexually assault every 98 seconds. These are real problems that our generation faces every day.
11). Depression causes people to withdraw from hobbies and even loved ones. Do not be hesitant to reach out to someone you think may be struggling. Let them know you are always available to listen. Never downplay what they are going through. However, this is where number twelve is important.
12). You cannot blame yourself for someone’s suicide. There are many other factors that play into decisions like that. It does no good to dwell on the “what ifs.”
13). Finally, and most importantly: change and awareness starts with you. Watch for the warning signs of suicide and depression. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists some things to watch out for: talk of wanting to die, being a burden, or having no reason to live; increased use of drugs or alcohol; withdrawing from activities; acting recklessly; aggression or isolation. These are just a few, and sometimes the signs are not always evident. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, suicide was the second leading cause of death in 2014 for people between the ages of 10 and 34, with a total of 42,000 deaths. That is thousands of people who were suffering so badly that they decided to take their own lives.
So what can you do? You can let your loved ones know you are there for them. You can seek out ways to raise awareness. Encourage those you know who are suffering to seek professional help when necessary, and let them know that suicide is not an option. While you cannot control what they do, your efforts can make all the difference.
Most importantly, if you are considering suicide, know that things are never that bad. They get better; I promise. Get help if you need it. You do not have to face this on you own.
So take these lessons from “13 Reasons Why”, and stand up to bullying, sexual assault, mental illness and suicide. Take action, and be a positive influence in your own life, as well as the lives of those around you. Change starts with you.