Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Sunday 18 April |
Saint of the Day: Bl. Maria Anna Blondin
home iconLifestyle
line break icon

Brave high schoolers share ’13 reasons why NOT’

Oxford High School Students

Pam Parker Fine | Facebook | Fair Use

Cerith Gardiner - published on 05/12/17

When adolescents speak out in response to Netflix's controversial series, we could all stand to listen.

The recent Netflix series 13 Reasons Why courts a lot of controversy in the way it deals with the sensitive issue of teen suicide, and for good reason, too. The story explains how the suicide victim, Hannah, took her life after a series of 13 painful events. But before she died she made sure to leave behind seven tapes explaining to each of the individuals she held responsible for her radical decision their role in making her life a misery. And that’s where the problem lies: a whole series of blame, glorifying having your voice heard, but after the event, when it’s all too late.




Read more:
Is your teen watching ’13 Reasons Why’? Here’s why you should be concerned

Surely when approaching such a delicate topic, especially for an audience that is so easily swayed, the emphasis should be on prevention. Luckily a group of seniors at Oxford High School in Michigan took this on, turning the tables on the popular TV show that is due to return with a second season, and showing their classmates the benefits of speaking out when in pain. Instead of focusing on the negatives, the students actually made their own tapes that were broadcast throughout the school each morning, explaining how people helped them with acts of kindness, making them feel that life was worth fighting for.

The first student to have their tape played was Riley Juntti who believed “the show accurately depicted what happens in high school … the problem we had with the show is it made it seem like suicide was the only option and didn’t raise mental health awareness, and it didn’t give resources. That was very troubling for us; we wanted to fix that with our project.”

Kayla Manzella, who’d been told “Why don’t you just kill yourself” by a girl in her volleyball team, was helped out by a friendship with Alexa Alban, who talked her out of hurting herself. Manzella wanted to stress in her tape that “words matter, both good and bad.” And it seems that these recordings have struck a chord with classmates coming up to her and offering her hugs and sending her messages on Twitter — nice ones!




Read more:
Girl’s live-streamed suicide prompts disgust and dismay

Alexa herself felt bullied for her weight, and after her recording she said in an interview: “My biggest thing I want people to take out of it is not to be afraid to have a voice. I was so scared to stand up for myself. … I want the community to understand it’s okay to have a voice and it’s okay to talk, it’s okay to be yourself.”

Alarmingly, a CDC report in 2015 showed that suicide is the second cause of death among 10- to 24-year-olds, with 5,240 attempts made each day by 7th to 12th graders. Out of all these attempts, four out of five youngsters had given clear signs. While we might not be able to always read them, we must be able to encourage teens to speak out about their issues. Megan Abbot, a former pupil at the high school, committed suicide in 2013, and her sister who is also a pupil there believes that this sort of initiative might have helped her sister.

When the recordings are being played, the school falls silent, the levels of tardiness have also gone down, and the response to the tapes has only been positive. By sharing their experiences with their classmates in “13 reasons why not,” these seniors are reminding their peers of three of life’s most important lessons: the true value of being alive, we don’t ever need to be alone, and kindness wins the day. As parents, all we can do is listen, encourage kindness in our kids, and remember what might seem trivial to us may mean the world to our often hormonal adolescents — take a look back, what adult ever found the teen years easy?

Tags:
Mental HealthParenting
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
SPANISH FLU
Bret Thoman, OFS
What Padre Pio saw in the Spanish Flu of 1918
2
LOREN SCHAUERS
Annalisa Teggi
Amputee from the waist down is thankful every day to be alive
3
PADRE PIO
Philip Kosloski
Padre Pio’s favorite prayer of petition
4
MASS
Philip Kosloski
5 Essential things used at Mass and their symbolism
5
COUPLE
Cerith Gardiner
7 Joys to be had from a lengthy marriage
6
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Catholic prayers for strength
7
HOLY SEPULCHRE CROSSES
Zelda Caldwell
Mystery of crosses on walls of Church of the Holy Sepulchre may h...
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.