“13 Reasons Why” not?

   As an educator I heard about “13 reasons why” early on in its existence. I had heard of the book, but once it hit Netflix it exploded. Many students went on about how it was relatable etc. Social Media was immediately flooded with people (not young ones) bashing it. Most condemned it for “glorifying suicide” or something similar to that theme. I agreed off hand. It sounded like that was true from what I’d heard. It made something with a central theme about suicide popular, hence “glorifying”. There’s no reason to have a show in which the point of the entire first season leads up to one of the main characters (Hannah) taking their own life. (I don’t count that as a spoiler since its the entire crux of the show from second 1, and come on, it’s 2018).


   My default recommendation for my youth and students was for them to not watch it. I had never seen it of course, but there are many things I haven’t seen/done that I still feel compelled to tell kids to avoid. This was no different. BUT (isn’t there always a but?) earlier this year I inadvertently found myself in the room with someone who was watching one of the early episodes, I think it was probably #2. Because of this I ended up watching the entire 1st season.

I still recommend that kids not watch it. 

   I’m not switching gears when it comes to that. The language is awful and many scenes are graphic, there are multiple scenes with rape and of course the final moments of the narrators life. But even more importantly, there may be kids struggling with thoughts exactly like these that we don’t even know about (more on this later). I am concerned that they will see this and think it’s the only way to cope with it because no matter what Hannah tried it ended the same. I don’t want them to feel like their thoughts of being universally unloved are true. I’m not discounting how real it is to them, because it’s very real, but there were people that loved Hannah. They just didn’t show up in time (more on this also, stick around). If you happen to be a young any person reading this and you don’t think theres anyone on this planet that loves you, get in touch with me. I’ve never met you but I love you. And even better, I can tell you about someone who loves you like you’ve never thought possible. Don’t take that course of action, there is another way out of the darkness you find yourself in. Don’t. Ever. Underestimate. Your. Worth. Suicide is never the only choice, even if it feels like the only way out. Theres a light at the end of the tunnel, I can help you find it. If you’r not comfortable with that, I can find someone who you are comfortable with and put you in contact with them.

BUT, if your an adult it wouldn’t hurt to watch this.

   I know it may be uncomfortable, what with the language and other scenes. But especially if your a parent, minister, teacher, principal, counselor, etc. this is important to understand. I know we were all teenagers once, but the world and school is a different place now, as teachers will attest. Many of the things that were depicted in the show didn’t surprise me, but to see it from the aspect of the victim was eye opening. It significantly changed the way I interacted with a lot of the kids I see. As educators we see them every single day and that allows us to make a very huge and very real impact. The “but that’s not even a big deal” attitude shows up in the show too, friends and family seem to think the main character is overreacting to some situations or things. It becomes a recurring narrative. How often do we tell a someone that its “no big deal”, or that something “isn’t worth crying over.”? If you work with kids in any capacity then you have a obligation to give them the best you. That means trying our best to understand their feelings and what they’re going through so you can connect with them. Almost every teacher I know cares for their kids on a deep level, I really believe that. But to care, and to take action, are two very different things. If you see a kid struggling with something, take it seriously (remember it’s real to them) and then go do something about it. Even if that’s as simple as going, saying “hi”, and listening to them. Listening is underrated, especially to educators and other similar roles, but in general as well. We love so much to fix, offer advice, or tell someone how “I would do it”. They might surprise you with how serious these feelings are to them. You can make such a big impact by never assuming they are as O.K. as they appear on the outside and then showing up for them.

I really recommend that you watch the first season of this show. I know we are taught, even as adults, to avoid these sorts of things, and rightly so. In this case, though, I really feel that the knowledge and insight gained is worth it. Wait till your kids are in bed, turn down the volume, and get ready for some words and scenes that may be uncomfortable. But that’s kinda the point: watch it, absorb it, and put yourself in Hannah’s shoes.

To leaders of kids who are Christians. 

   The way adults talk to kids become the voices in their head.  What kind of voice are you? Remember, be the foundation that they can begin their journey to Christ from.

Be the rock


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**Image courtesy of hdwallsource.com

Published by

Andy Johnson

Andy has a decade of Student Ministry experience and is now a school administrator in NE Texas.

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