Suicide. That’s what teens and some adults are discussing with the Netflix presentation of “13 Reasons Why.”
So what was the book about and why are we just now talking about it? The book has been out since 2007, but reading a real book seems to be a challenge in today’s busy world.
I will confess that I have read this young adult novel but have neither seen the television miniseries version nor do I intend to. I also have read author Jay Asher’s responses to a series of questions about his ideas for the novel and teen suicide.*
I’ve known people who have killed themselves, and I’ve witnessed the ripple effects of their decisions. Suicide is never a solitary act, and I tend to think of it as a permanent solution to problems that may well be temporary.
One instance: I was team teaching a college class on the changing roles of women in a classroom in an historic building . The second-floor room was filled with students sitting on the green-carpeted floor.
Back in the corner a young lanky man asked if we have the right to take our own lives. I was the only one in the room who said, “No.” He got the affirmation/approval for an action he was considering. Within days, he had driven his car to a remote spot and asphyxiated himself.
We never discussed his suicide in subsequent classes, but I felt guilty. Why? I wasn’t vociferous enough; I was unwilling to take on members of the team who had more degrees than I did at the time; I didn’t reach out to him after class.
That was not the first time I knew of a suicide, but it took years of observing before I realized the impact on a friend whose father had killed himself. She found his body when she came home from school one day. Her life was deeply troubled.
I’ve known more suicides, so I’m writing today to cite 13 reasons why suicide is not a good option:
1. There are always challenges to living, and each can teach you how to minimize the damage in the next one and how to understand the burdens some shoulder.
2. If you think you have nothing to give, that you don’t deserve to be alive, rethink that and begin to start giving.
3. Some will be harmed by your suicide, significantly harmed, and at times, the damage is irreparable.
4. Even though you probably won’t know the first responders who come for your body, they and their family members will be negatively impacted. Most of us, regardless of our professions, have feelings- even embalmers..
5. There will be emotional and financial burdens to your family to bury you or cremate you.
6. Since you’re probably not skilled in doing this, you may not die and might live in a seriously impaired state, requiring around-the-clock care.
7. You will be pitied or chastised for breaking religious dictates that frown on or forbid suicide, and who among us wants that?
Now for a bit of sick humor:
8. Your siblings with whom you’ve always fought will get your good stuff.
9. The economy will suffer with one less person to buy stuff.
10. There will be no opportunity to write a best seller and speak from the grave
11. After a month or so in a casket, you will not look nearly as good as you did once the embalmer at the funeral home had completed his/her work. And those who sent flowers and mourned will move on with their lives.
12. Those today who do/say ugly things to you, bully you, don’t always have to be a part of your life.
13. If you’re the least bit curious, you want to know what’s going to happen next in this complex world.
I know my readers can add to my list.
* In response to questions about teen suicide, author Asher says, “Basically, even though Hannah admits that the decision to take her life was entirely her own, it’s also important to be aware of how we treat others,” and “The first person a concerned friend should talk to is the person they’re concerned about. Suicide has such a stigma attached to it that we feel like we’re going to offend that person by bringing it up. But I’d rather err on the side of offending them than to lose them to suicide.”
Further, he indicates, “Instead, give them the phone numbers and contacts they need; or, better yet, initiate those contacts for them. There’s a national phone number and web site (1-800-SUICIDE and www.hopeline.com) available for teens — or anyone who might need someone to talk to. And they can put you in contact with local people for more help.”
Vivian Blevins is a consultant for the Training Solutions Group Inc. who teaches courses in writing and literature for major telecom company employees. Reach her at (937) 778-3815 or firstname.lastname@example.org.