13 reasons not to take your own life

Megan Abbott, who took her own life in May 2013, inspired a teacher in students to start a program this week that has kids talking about their struggles. Photo: In Loving Memory of Megan Facebook Page. Several schools in Minnesota have issued warnings to parents about the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”, which many school-age kids are watching without supervision. The problem is it shows an explicit scene of the main character’s suicide (a video of which has finally been removed from YouTube this week), and each episode reveals another person at the character’s school responsible for her decision to take her own life.

It makes suicide appear inevitable, the show’s critics say.

In Minnesota, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teens.

School officials have warned parents to talk to their kids about the series and the topic. A Catholic school in Canada has warned its students not to talk about the series at all.

In Michigan, some students have a better idea.

Riley Juntti started the morning school announcements at Oxford High School this week with this.

“Worthless. Self-centered. No morals. Easy. Grimy. Cake face. You would be better off dead. That’s just the start of what you would label me as everyday for two years.”

That’s the sort of bullying that pushes teens toward suicide.

But then Juntti continued…

“This tape is for you Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I can not repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not.”

Juntti is one of several students who this week kicked off the “13 Reasons Why Not” campaign in which they reveal their struggles and thank someone for helping.

It was started by teacher Pam Fine in memory of Megan Abbott, a freshman student who completed suicide four years ago, according to The Oakland Press.

“The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show. … Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope. Our message is that there are no 13 reasons why. Suicide is not an option,” Fine told reporter Monica Drake.

Juntti went first.

“Standing up for what is right has always been more important to me than my peers’ approval, and this project wasn’t an exception,” she said.

She explained it in an online post later.

“Life is always worth living,” she continued. “There are people who love you and your value is not tarnished by other people’s perceptions.”

Something amazing happened after Juntti stepped forward. Students rallied around her.

And they rallied around the captain of the basketball team, Jordan Jaden, who revealed the next day that he was struggling with degrading text messages from a family member after his mother moved away.

“I’ve had no one to talk to, and it’s been hard,” he said. “I know I could have given up a long time ago. … My reasons to live are my two little sisters and my mom.”

“There’s always someone who cares about you. You’re never alone. There’s always something to live for.”

Kids started talking about their struggles. Many asked to be allowed to be one of the students between now and May 27 to get to share their stories during the morning announcements, and reveal the people who gave them reasons not to take their own life.

“Oxford has come together to create an environment this past week where talking about mental illness is socially acceptable. … I’ve helped people come forward with their struggles and that’s more than what I can ask for from this project,” teacher Pam Fine said.

“I think if Megan had something like this going on in school when she was there, we would have had more time with her,” said Morgan Abbott of her sister, who took her life in the wood’s next to the school.

But she has been heartened by the single message that has been scrawled on mirrors and stalls in the bathrooms that represent reason #1.

You’re Beautiful.”

(h/t: Jason Mock)

Related: Facts About Teens, Suicide And ’13 Reasons Why’ (NPR)