• Crying boy

In the past month a new show on Netflix titled 13 Reasons Why has been sweeping the culture. Many people of all ages are watching, and due to some of the content and subject matter it is gaining popularity. In my context as a Youth & Young Adults Pastor, I am constantly given the opportunity to speak into the lives of other people. With so much buzz around this show I feel it’s necessary to not only warn people about some of the content, but also equip people with resources to respond to issues of mental health, depression and suicide in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

 

13 Reasons Why follows a group of 12 high school students who are forced to listen to a series of cassette tapes left for them after their classmate, Hannah Baker, completes suicide. On each of these cassette tapes are reasons that contributed to Hannah taking her own life. The show walks through how each of the students contributed to her choice, and eventually during the final episodes, the series graphically demonstrates how and shows Hannah in the act of completing her own suicide.

 

Although the show is creating a lot of conversation around the severity of depression, mental health, and suicide amongst people of all ages, the show does not do a good job of protecting it’s viewers and giving them resources if they themselves or a friend is struggling with the same things Hannah deals with in the show. **Netflix has recently added “Trigger Warnings** before episodes, but still could do more to give viewers accessible resources.

 

I have talked to numerous other youth and young adult pastors across the nation, as well as licensed professional counselors and school guidance counselors, all of them agree that although the content is reality for some students, the way it is presented and handled — is as if suicide is a possible and reasonable option for those struggling with anxiety or depression – that is NEVER the case. NYMag.com interviewed high school students regarding their thoughts of the show, one student said:

 

“My biggest issue was that it didn’t address Hannah’s depression at all; it just makes it seem like you kill yourself because of things other people do to you, and not because of what’s going on inside of you. I think they had an opportunity to make it a lot more introspective for her and talk about the toll and effect it had on her — I think they really missed the mark.” — Amelia, 17, Massachusetts

 

Variety wrote this past month that 13 Reasons Why is “the most tweeted show of the year” with over 11 million tweets since its launch on March 30th. This demonstrates that the show is not just a fad, but a pop culture phenomenon, and with the recent signing of season 2, we can expect to hear more buzz.

 

My suggestion to you: Be aware of the content of this show. Suicide and depression is something that I have experienced in different aspects of my own life, and I found myself having to walk away from the television during some of the episodes. As a result, I’ve listed 5 tips below for how you might want to consider handling the content if you choose to watch the show.

 

Don’t watch it alone.

 

13 Reasons

As I stated previously, a lot of the content in this show is graphic, and to some may even be unrealistic, but to many high school students, a lot of this content has become the “normality” in their schools. It is important that students never watch this show alone, and if you are someone who has teenagers in your home, whether it be your child or sibling, watching it with them will give you an easy opportunity talk about these issues. In NYMag.com’s interview one student said:

 

“My mom actually ended up watching it, and it brought her to tears. After she’d finished the last episode, she sent me a text, saying, ’I hope you know you can always come to me, because I will always be there with no judgment.’ What she said was really heartfelt and it meant a lot.” – Taylor, 18, Arizona

 

Try and create an environment where you can openly dialogue about the show.

 

13 Reasons 3When watching the show, or any show that depicts such serious issues such as these, its important to have an open environment where you are able to ask questions, and have conversations with people you trust. This is extremely important if you are watching with your teenager or younger brother or sister. CJ Palmer talks about the idea of creating an “escape plan” where students are able to recognize when something makes them uncomfortable, and are able to notify someone they trust. Even when watching the show with your own friends, it makes it easier to discuss issues you may not normally discuss over coffee.

 

Educate yourself about the show, and the unrealistic portrayals of some events.

 

13 Reasons 5Throughout the show, Hannah paints the school as if nobody cares, as if professionals and guidance counselors don’t want to help her. This is not true, in fact many school guidance counselors were upset how the counselor in the show treated the situation. In this day and age teachers, guidance counselors and school administrators are trained in responding to issues regarding students struggling with depression and suicide.

 

Even many youth and young adult pastors have begun to receive training in order to better minister to the students they serve. If you work with teenagers on a regular basis, and are seeking out training I would recommended Youth Mental Health First Aid, a 3 year international certification that shows you how to respond to students struggling with these issues. Another resource that will benefit both youth and young adult workers and parents is put out by the Suicide Awareness Voice of Education (SAVE) organization. This resource gives clear talking points when discussing the content of this show with others. – Bonus, its available in English, Spanish, German, and Danish.

 

Make sure you know where to get help if you or a friend is struggling.

 

There are numerous hotlines, chat rooms, and other resources available for those who are struggling with depression, suicide, or other life issues. The top three that I recommend are as follows;

 

  1. 2nd Floor Youth Hotline – Is sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Children and Family, it is specifically designed for youth and young adults in New Jersey. It can be used via Text or Phone Call, and is completely free, 24/7. The number for 2nd Floor is 888-222-2228. If you are not located in New Jersey here is a list of 24/7 crisis hotlines for all 50 states, and even some internationally!

  2. RemedyLIVE is a Christian ministry that works to help students all over the country, they are only available through online chat on their website, but bring a Christian perspective immediately to any situation. Their website is http://remedylive.com

  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255, they are available for people of all ages 24/7 via phone.

 

Don’t downplay the reality of depression and suicide amongst youth and young adults. // Suicide is the leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds, 90% of teens who complete suicide were dealing with depression, anxiety, drug or alcohol abuse, or a behavioral problem. This isn’t something that we can ignore, but something we must be proactive about.

 

This week I am praying Psalm 112:6-9 over you, and I would encourage you to do the same over your friends and family, it says:

 

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
their righteousness endures forever;
their horn will be lifted high in honor.

 

Brian Preiser
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Brian Preiser

Director of Student & Young Adult Ministries at Bayside Chapel
Brian serves as the Director of Student Ministries at Bayside Chapel in Barnegat, NJ. He oversees middle school, high school, young adult, and special needs ministries.

He has a Bachelors of Science in Church Ministries: Youth Ministries from Liberty University and is currently pursuing his M.A. in Christian Ministry: Leadership from Liberty University School of Divinity.

Brian is married to the love of his life, Danielle. He is called to not only reach, but also to equip and send out youth and young adults to be worldchangers for the sake of the Gospel.
Brian Preiser
Follow Me!
Brian serves as the Director of Student Ministries at Bayside Chapel in Barnegat, NJ. He oversees middle school, high school, young adult, and special needs ministries. He has a Bachelors of Science in Church Ministries: Youth Ministries from Liberty University and is currently pursuing his M.A. in Christian Ministry: Leadership from Liberty University School of Divinity. Brian is married to the love of his life, Danielle. He is called to not only reach, but also to equip and send out youth and young adults to be worldchangers for the sake of the Gospel.

2 Comments

  1. Lee June 11, 2017 at 2:30 am · Reply

    Sharing this with all I can, Brian
    So appreciate your writing
    Joining in this scripture prayer cover

  2. Colleen Batchelder June 13, 2017 at 3:55 am · Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing, Lee! Brian’s article was so informative and helpful for those facing this difficult conversation! SO glad you were blessed!

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