13 reasons not to take your own life

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.

juntii

“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)

  • Anna

    The fact that no one has commented on this article proves we still have a long way to go before the stigma of depression and suicide can have any meaningful discussion.

    Michigan has started the ball rolling.

    Will Minnesota follow their lead?

    • The number of comments is a very poor barometer of what people think.

      I’m done with the whole “stigma’ thing. That’s become a dodge for people — mostly the health care organizations that are influencing editorial decisions — to distract us from the scandalous lack of access to mental health care. It turns it back to the ill,, blaming someone’s reticence to seek help on this “stigma.”

      I know that’s not what you’re doing here. But I’m currently campaigning for people to stop with the “stigma” message and start with the focusing on the lack of access to proper care.

      The most meaninfgul discussion we can have doesn’t require an end to stigma. It requires public policy and health care organizations to defend their decisions on unequal treatment of the ill.

      I’m not going to let them off the hook by being distracted.

      It’s great that the kids are talking about their problems. There’s obviously been major strides with that and the focus on encouraging people to talk is all to the good. No argument there.

      But now it’s time to go to the next step. Not letting politicians, insurance companies, and giant health care conglomerates (who often fund the stigma campaigns) off the hook.

      • Anna

        Parents of teens need to educate themselves on the signs that suicide might be on the horizon or drug abuse for that matter especially if there is a history of major depression or bipolar disorder in the family. Children of bipolar parents are at 50% greater risk of major depression.

        A major life event such as the loss of a parent, a sibling or even a friend or a relationship break-up can trigger the first major episode.

        It did for me.

        I had my first major depression when my marriage broke up. Once I was free of the verbal abuse by my husband, my symptoms eased.

        Giving away possessions, sudden drop in grades in a high achieving student, subtle withdrawal from social activities are things to watch out for.

        The person contemplating suicide is not going to ask for help because they feel suicide is their only way to stop the emotional pain.

        Students who struggle at their studies or who are extremely bright seem to be at the most risk. Anything that causes them to not blend into the crowd can put them at risk for taunting and bullying.

        Teens are under greater pressure than ever to “fit in.” Rating systems on social media networks are not helping matters either.

        Paul Wellstone fought so hard to get mental illness on an equal footing with other major disease processes. I think he would be appalled at what the Republicans are doing to dismantle Obamacare.

        Those with mental illness already have a dearth of healthcare providers for access and treatment. Will mental illness fall into the trap of preexisting conditions?

        We will all have to wait and see what the Senate comes up with.

        Frankly, I think it’s time to start calling it “Trumpcare.”

      • king harvest

        First off, stigma exists. Whether you are done with it or not is immaterial. It is not a dodge for me. I’m kind of pissed at your choice of words.
        The abhorrent lack of care is a separate issue. Both of these came into play when a coworker killed himself a month ago. Access to care and less stigma might have made a difference.
        Management here are good people and they brought in a grief counselor. It was very helpful, for awhile. Now, if I bring “the incident” up in conversation, people are uncomfortable. Maybe it’s burnout, maybe it’s stigma. I don’t know. Thanks for pushing this, I’ll keep working on it on this end.

        • First off, I didn’t say stigma doesn’t exist. I said the focus on it distracts us from the scandal and shifts the blame to the ill.

          Sort of like “we’ll fix the system just as soon as we end the stigma.”

          Nope. Done with that. It’s time for people to focus on the scandal.

          • king harvest

            Sort of like “we’ll end stigma just as soon as we fix the system ”
            It’s not either-or. Although I feel like it will be easier to end stigma than increase access, I fully support more and better care.

          • You’re right. It shouldn’t be either-or. But it is. Stigma campaigns often give the general public a good feeling about things when actually they made very little difference. And media members canc over those a lot easier than a deep dive into a calamitous system.

          • king harvest

            Fair enough. Increasing awareness of all aspects of mental health can only help. A focus on the appalling lack of access and care is more than justified. However, as the story showed, anti stigma campaigns can be much more than a feel good gesture.

          • It *can* be.

      • Mike

        Agree completely. In addition, I’ll say that suicide among young and healthy people due to mental health issues is utterly different from suicide among people who are older and/or have chronic/terminal health conditions that make life miserable. The two seem to get conflated by various groups for various reasons, but they are worlds apart.

        I fully defend someone’s right to end his/her life in the latter scenario, given that often the only alternative is to spend one’s savings on end of life “care” that provides no quality or meaningful reprieve from suffering. There should be no stigma attached to suicide in such cases. Moreover, it should be legal to seek help to accomplish it.

      • KariBemidji

        We struggle with access in rural Minnesota. And struggle is putting a positive spin on the situation. We have one psychiatrist in Beltrami county.

        • Yep.

          I wish media would do one less story on stigma, and do one more on what it’s like for an individual, especially one on Medicare, to find a psychiatrist that takes medicare clients.

          The one thing you often here in the wake of suicide is, “if he/she had only asked for help; help is available.”

          No, quite often it’s not.

          • KariBemidji

            Do you remember when Mark Daly did that excellent piece on organ donation? He followed a donor through the whole process from to ER to donation. Maybe a family could be super brave and allow a trusted media person to follow their family member through a crisis – waiting, waiting, waiting in the ER, more waiting in a normal* inpatient room not getting the mental health interventions they need, finally traveling to an inpatient facility… And all of the interventions, advocacy and frustration that goes on in between.

            *Normal isn’t the right word. And I apologize. We don’t have a mental health unit so it’s a room meant for a patient getting their hip replaced. Not the mental health care they need.

          • chlost

            This can be done by going to juvenile court, and hearing how many families are struggling to find services for mental health, whether for the adults or children in the family. Child Protection proceedings are public, anyone can sit in the courtroom and observe. I sometimes wish that a news organization would follow a family as they attempt to obtain counseling, medication, evaluations, or even insurance coverage for these services. It is outrageous. No one talks about it. It has become accepted. And it is just going to get worse. Children in need of services or protection often become juvenile delinquency defendants who need so much more from the system, but only end up in custody.

  • Sam M

    As a parent I will make a point to talk to my kids about suicide. I’ve lost a close friend and a grandparent to suicide and almost lost my sister. I don’t know how I will do it but I think like a lot of things in life the most important thing is just trying.

    • Al

      Your grandkids will thank you for this, if not now, then later.

    • Jeff C.

      This conversion got me to talk to my son about it. I just brought it up in the car after I picked him up from school. Asked him if he had heard of this from his friends and continued the conversation from there. Short conversation. Didn’t make it into a big deal (“Come here, son. Sit down. We have to talk.”) Easy. You can do it. (I’m trying to be supportive, not judging.)

  • I went to the NAMI fundraising dinner last night. One of the speakers was to be a young man who has worked with NAMI and who was to tell us about his mental illness.

    Unfortunately, he didn’t make it. He’s missing. They found his abandoned car.

  • Angry Jonny

    NPR’s John Welna has been a voice in the wilderness about suicide. I hope that his voice becomes more audible on this topic, as well as NPR’s coverage of it.

    • David Welna? The national security reporter? (and Waseca native)?

      I’m not familiar with any of his work on the subject.

      • Angry Jonny

        Sorry, meant David. Let me see if I can find links to what I’m looking for.

      • Angry Jonny

        I can’t find a link, but he spoke about his brother John’s suicide. I met John when I was a kid when he was in a relationship with my older sister. He was a kind and fun guy, but looking back now as an adult, the signs were there.

  • ryui

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    to manage it. Psychotherapy, medication such as anti-depressants, and electroconvulsive therapy are the three most common methods for treating depression. Treatment is usually administered on an outpatient basis; inpatient care is only considered if the patient poses any threat to his safety or that of someone else.