The New York Times best selling book turned Netflix series "Thirteen Reasons Why" has turned into an overnight national phenomenon. Why is this series catching the attention of parents, teachers, teenagers, and pretty much everyone?
While the series has many critics, this series has one main attraction. "Thirteen Reasons Why" is the most accurate show on television. As a licensed professional counselor and professional youth speaker who presents suicide prevention programs in public and private schools, I can tell you that, unfortunately, this show depicts the struggles many of our teenagers are facing.
I knew immediately when I heard about "Thirteen Reasons Why" that I would inevitably write about this show, since I speak passionately about teen suicide to our young people. I went into the show ready to be a critic. I was ready to bash it for romanticizing suicide and for depicting dark images and ideas. However, I wasn't prepared for the overwhelming accuracy of this show. Because, if 1 in 6 women are sexually abused and 5,000 teenagers in the United States attempt suicide daily, then there are a lot of Hannah Bakers out there.
So, while there are many reasons not to watch the show, I want to focus on the number one issue depicted in "Thirteen Reasons Why." Surprisingly, the number one issue is not suicide. The number one harmful issue is having a victim mentality.
Victim mentality is different from being a victim. Without a doubt, people are victims of assault, abuse, and many different horrible acts for which they are in no way responsible. Victim mentality does not necessarily have anything to do with being the object of a crime. Victim mentality is letting other people rule your life or, in Hannah Baker's case, letting other people ruin your life.
While this idea can sound harsh, it is the reason Hannah Baker's character and millions of other people take their own lives. I remember counseling a suicidal 20-year-old girl who was a complete puzzle to me. I could not figure out why this beautiful and talented young woman with her whole life ahead of her was suicidal.
Finally, she said to me, "I want to commit suicide because I want my dad to know how badly he hurt me when he sexually abused me."
That is the suicidal delusion that many teenagers and adults believe — that because of what has happened in their life, their life is over.
Many suffering people believe they are the only ones. They are the only ones being bullied. They are the only ones being sexually abused. They are the only ones without friends. And when people believe they are alone, they feel hopeless. But, luckily, our lives are never hopeless, never beyond repair, and never beyond redemption because God is big enough to use the worst parts of our lives for His ultimate plan.
In Genesis 50:20, Joseph had the ultimate chance to confront his brothers who sold him into slavery and left him for dead, and his response was not to leave cassette tapes for all his brothers to listen to so they could be punished. Instead, Joseph told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive."
In considering your view of "Thirteen Reasons Why," please remember that there is a reason it is a hit show. Countless numbers of people are tempted to commit suicide every minute. We must stop letting other people ruin and even take our lives. We must open our eyes to the nationwide epidemic and reality of suicide.