I’m sitting in the parking lot of a local Catholic Church on a dreary Wednesday morning watching kids stream off of school busses to attend their classmate’s funeral. It’s been a somber couple of weeks here as we lost two teenage boys from different high schools to suicide just three days apart. One, a senior just days away from his graduation, the other a freshman.
As the kids file past the Hearst through the doors of the church I can’t imagine their anxiety and despair. And I, as a parent of three daughters, can’t help but weep trying to grasp the agony this young man’s parents must be suffering through.
How did we get here? How did this 15 year old boy get to the point where the only way to stop the pain was to end his life? And why does it seem like suicide, teenage or adult, seems to be nearly epidemic?
As the counselors descended on the school the day after the news, they spoke of a new Netflix series called “Thirteen Reasons Why.” Adapted from a book, it is the story of a teenage girl who takes her life and leaves recorded messages of the 13 reasons that led up to her death. My close friend was the first one to mention it to me a couple of months back. She recommended I watch it with my 17 year old daughter. I read the storyline and promptly decided that this series would only compound my daughter’s anxiety issues. She was familiar with the story and had no interest in watching it.
Just a few weeks before this tragedy hit our school, the Middle School Director mentioned this series as well, saying that it’s not a show that kids should watch alone and that with proper parental involvement it might facilitate discussions about the stressful topics the show glamorizes.
I still haven’t seen the show, nor have I read the book but in light of these recent events I can’t help but be outraged that a show like this exists.
I’m old enough to remember the uproar the book “Go Ask Alice” spurred in early seventies. The story was about a teenage girl who runs away from home, descends into a perilous drug addiction and dies from a drug overdose. Not long after the book came the movie and a heady theme song by Jefferson Airplane. My mother didn’t want me see it because it was too graphic and I would learn how to use drugs. I remember thinking it showing me all sorts of reasons why drugs were dangerous. My mom was not equipped to talk to me about drugs or sex or anything unseemly. She felt sheltering me was the best option.
So what do the producers of this Netflix series hope to accomplish with this show? Is it to give parents an opportunity to discuss these hot topics with their kids? Do they really think most parents are emotionally equipped to talk with their kids about these sensitive topics? If their goal was education then it shoukd be delivered in a controlled setting where healthy discussions can be facilitated.
Or is the goal to capitalize on the books succcess without consideration of the potential dangers of glamorizing suicide?
Of course I will never know the reasons why these tragedies occurred and I’m quite certain these kids will struggle with the memory of this day for years as they gather together to lay their classmate to rest.
What I do know is that our teenagers are overwhelmed, overstressed and under-heard. Our children are not our “mini-me’s” to shape into all of the things we want them to be. They came here with their own personality, their own mission and their own agenda. I believe it’s our job as parents to nuture these unique souls to their divine potential.
Today when you hug your child a little tighter, look deep into their eyes. Acknowledge the perfect soul that God created and give them the safe loving space they need to chart their unique destiny.