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13 Reasons Why

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SISTER HELENA BURNS

I think the verdict is now out. The wildly-popular, or at least widely-seen Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" – (based on the book by the same name) about a teen girl who commits suicide – may actually have the reverse effect of its intended purpose.

The purpose of the book/series was to prevent teen suicide by graphically depicting one, as well as the events leading up to it, all narrated by the deceased girl  herself. I'm going to recommend the articles below and one audio interview – which all urge great caution in viewing the series. Adults should certainly see the series so they can talk about it with teens who have seen it (or may have seen it secretly).  It is vital to just start talking with your teens about the series, about teen suicide and about the many, many other issues brought up in the series. Teens WANT and NEED to talk with trusted adults about this series.

This series got ME very, very depressed. The full-on suicide was horrific. The filmmakers rejected the advice of the experts to not represent the suicide without cutting away.

Copycat suicides

Suicide is the No. 2 killer of teens today (North America). There are always copycat suicides after popular depictions of teen suicides and/or news stories covering actual teen suicides. This is exactly what happened after "Dead Poets Society." The copycat suicides are hushed up by first responders and news media, or they used to be, JUST to minimize the potential for even more copycats.

Important resources

Here are some important resources related to “13 Reasons Why”

--Aleteia is the Vatican's social media outreach: http://aleteia.org/2017/04/25/is-your-teen-watching-13-reasons-why-heres-why-you-should-be-concerned

--Excellent! A mom-psychotherapist weighs in: http://www.foxlevineandassociates.com/blog/2017/4/19/13-reasons-why-and-its-unintended-consequences

--Excellent! Relevant Radio interview with experts: http://relevantradio.streamguys.us/MA Archive/MA20170427b.mp3

Super intense, super dark, super hopeless

It seems the filmmakers had the best of intentions; but for all their filmmaking and teen-brain expertise, they failed to see that you cannot control/direct how the majority of teens may process this super intense, super dark, super hopeless drama.

And when you're a teen, who are you going to side with: adults telling you NOT to do something? Or a teen rebelling against everything around herself and keenly and articulately going on and on and on giving reasons for her suicide for hours and hours of the series?

Hannah Baker, the new girl at school, is lonely and suffering. A series of events, including sexting, rape, male objectification of females, physical/emotional/verbal, teenage drinking, teen sex, bullying, a fatal car accident she inadvertently and indirectly "caused," betrayal of friends, etc., led her to give up on life. Before she kills herself, she meticulously records 13 old-school cassette tapes to explain her "13 reasons why" she killed herself. Each of the 13 reasons are a person that she effectively blames. One young man in particular, Clay Jensen (actor Dylan Minnette was born in Evansville) – as sweet and genuine as Hannah, with whom she began a romantic relationship – is taking it very, very hard, of course. Due to his shyness and awkwardness, he wasn't always "there for her," and so he is majorly blaming himself.

There are three teen deaths: Hannah's suicide (slit wrists), Alex's suicide (gunshot to head), and a teen boy in a car accident.

The series is realistic, gritty, and goes into the many heavy issues facing teens today. The dialogue is in-depth. It is very rich because of dealing in depth with so many teen topics. I'm sure teens will feel honored by the very fact that someone cared enough to show the world what they are really facing (although, certainly, most teens aren't facing all of the issues portrayed). But that's not good enough. There is only one glimmer of hope at the very end when Clay reaches out to another isolated girl. But that's it. One psychologist is calling this "negative flooding" or "exposure therapy," which can actually work to make young people comfortable with suicide. The negativity is so overwhelming.

There is so much I want to say, so much TO say about this series. I took 10 pages of notes! But for now, I concur with the opinion of the resources listed above. Talk to your teens! "Control is for the moment, communication is for a lifetime."