The '13 Reasons Why' Meme That Left Me in Tears

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

On Easter Sunday, I was perusing Facebook and I saw a meme referencing “13 Reasons Why.” In this meme, the person jokes about dying by suicide because their mother wasn’t going to give them an Easter basket. When I saw this meme, I was in tears.

This may seem like an overreaction on my part. But as someone who lives with depression and was suicidal in the past, this is triggering for me.

I guess I can’t blame this person. If you’ve never been suicidal, you would probably never understand how difficult and heart wrenching it is. You might not understand what it’s like to constantly have suicidal thoughts. Thoughts that get worse over time and that won’t go away no matter how much I try. Thoughts varying from, “I want to die,” to any of the various ways that I could. A person who has never experienced suicidal ideation may never understand what it’s like to ask God to let me die so I won’t have to face a new day. They might not understand what it’s like to have depression tell me my loved ones would be “better off” if I was gone. That I’m a burden. That I’m unloveable. That I’m worthless.

They might never understand what it’s like to actually be suicidal. What a dark and scary place it is. The scariest place I have ever known. A hole so deep I believed I would have succumbed to my depression.

My depression was so bad, I sincerely believed that 2016 was going to be my last year on Earth. Well, I’m still here. With the help of therapy and antidepressants, I have gotten better. So much better than I was last year. And I want to continue becoming the best version of myself I can be.

As someone who has been there, it does get better. And there are so many people who care about you and love you. Remember, you are not alone.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

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Photo via Twitter.

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The Moment of Clarity That Came After My Suicide Attempt

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Editor’s note: If you experience suicidal thoughts or have lost someone to suicide, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Tubes, connecting to nearby machines, snaked around my chest, tracing the failing parts of my body: Heart. Liver. Kidneys. Medicine, pumping at extremely fast rates, pulsated through my veins flowing towards the sickest parts of my body in an attempt to regain functionality. Professionals, using their 50 years of combined medical knowledge together, hovered over my decrepit situation. I could see the stethoscopes dangling.

“She might not make it, John.”

“Lola, can you hear us?”

“Her breathing is shallowed, call RT.”

“Prep an ICU bed.”

I could only faintly hear their slurs of hushed doctor talk. Breathe. Lola, focus on making it through the next breath. That’s your only task right now.

That was then.

This is now. I am a student leader, advocate, author, blogger, volunteer and obsessive coffee drinker. I am a dreamer, an enthusiast, a lover-of-all-things-life. And although it was a long, windy road to recovery with no shortage of hospitalizations, medication changes, psychiatrists and psychologists, there was a vivid moment of clarity that remains etched in my mind even today. After watching so many professionals fight with all their might for my life, they showed me this: I deserve life. The grave does not deserve me yet. The grave does not deserve the mounds of unfinished dreams, hopes, goals, aspirations and desires I possess.

The world needs me. The world needs you.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder during that scary hospitalization and I remember what the doctor said to me with eyes of genuine compassion: “Lola, there will be days of pain ahead, but there will also be days of joy and getting rid of the pain means getting rid of the joy. Let’s get you on the mend.”  

Depression is a beast; it will fight hard to make you succumb to its ways. But in those days following my attempt, I learned that I am more than my harmful thoughts. Depression doesn’t have the last breath and my thoughts have only the power I give them. Depression is strong, but with the right tool kit and resources, we can be stronger.

As far as I’ve come in my recovery process, I also know I will wrestle with my mental health for years to come. I am not the epitome of healthy, yet. I’m still a work in progress with many cracks and crevices in my soul and I need learn to thrive despite them. I am a masterpiece, not yet finished. Instead of waiting for the day for it to be beautiful, I am finding beauty in the unfinished work and anytime I get into a rut, I remind myself: The grave does not deserve me yet. I deserve life to it’s fullest.

And so do you.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo via fcscafeine

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Parents: Read This Before Talking With Your Kids About '13 Reasons Why'

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Editor’s note: The following piece contains spoilers about “13 Reasons Why.”

The buzz about the new Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is as loud as it is diverse — and if you’re a parent, it can be difficult to know what to make of it. Based on the book by Jay Asher, the series follows the aftermath of high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide. Hannah leaves 13 tapes explaining 13 reasons “why” she ended her life.

That, right there, is why many suicide prevention activists find the plot flawed and unhelpful (I’ll explain this below). But this criticism hasn’t translated to most general audiences, who have found the series inspiring for its depiction of hard-to-discuss issues like bullying, sexual assault and yes — suicide.

So how do we talk about it? For parents, and for anyone who feels a bit uncomfortable about “13 Reasons Why,” it can be intimidating to orchestrate a productive conversation about the topics and themes depicted in the show.

To find out what parents should think about when their child is watching “13 Reasons Why,” I spoke to three suicide prevention activists — Dese’Rae L. Stage, founder of Live Through This; Shannon Crossbear, a suicide loss survivor; and Martin Rafferty, Executive Director of Youth MOVE Oregon — and asked them what advice they would give parents who want to talk to their children about the show.

Here’s what they told me.

Ask, “What do you think is ‘Hollywood’ about this show?”

Although viewers of the show will know it’s fiction, Rafferty said it’s important to weed through exactly what makes the show unrealistic, besides the fact that its characters aren’t real.

Here are some good places to start:

Address the show’s representation of suicide as a way to send a message: Most people who die by suicide don’t get to leave a clear, definitive message after their death. To show suicide as an effective communication strategy (“everyone will see how wrong they are/learn a lesson about how their behavior affects others”) is misleading and perpetuates a “suicide as revenge” narrative — that people only kill themselves to teach others a lesson. While the series doesn’t undermine the real pain Hannah was in, it’s important to understand the plot itself is unrealistic. Those who are suicidal shouldn’t overestimate the clarity of the message they’ll be able to send after they die. “She made a huge splash, but most suicides are whispers,” Rafferty said.

Often, suicides are not orchestrated: Anywhere from 33 percent to 80 percent of all suicide attempts are impulsive. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, 24 percent took less than five minutes between the decision to kill themselves and the actual attempt, and 70 percent took less than one hour. “Parents should know the premise itself is unrealistic, no one, especially teenagers, a suicidal teenager, is going to take the time to make a long suicide manifesto and then remain in crisis,” Stage said. “Kids are usually going to act pretty quickly.”

Update April 18: To clarify, Stage added, “Most people act quickly in the window after they make the decision. That’s not to say that the move is necessarily impulsive. Many people think about it and plan (actively, or even as passively as, ‘If I were going to kill myself, I would take pills,’ or maybe they’d think about whether they would leave a note) over time. It doesn’t just arrive as a single thought out of mid-air for the first time and end in an attempt or a death.”

A suicide doesn’t leave behind a list of people/things to “blame”: When someone dies by suicide, there often isn’t a neatly, bullet-pointed list of “reasons why,” as the title of the show implies. Crossbear suggested asking your children, “Do you think when someone dies by suicide, there needs to be blamed assigned?”

“While we want people to be aware of how their actions impact other people, we also don’t want to put them in the position of feeling when someone dies by suicide, that it’s their fault,” Crossbear said.

Next, challenge the “bullycide” narrative. 

While we never want to underestimate the mental health effects bullying has on young people and the very real depression, anxiety and trauma it can spark, there’s often more going on when a bullied child takes their own life. “The bullycide narrative is problematic because it simplifies suicide too much,” Stage said. Instead, talk to your kids about the whole range of reasons why someone dies by suicide, including mental health, isolation and lack of support.

Talk honestly about the “kind of people” who die by suicide. (Hint: The stereotype is wrong.)

The part that bothered Stage, a suicide attempt survivor herself, was that the show perpetuated the myth that people who kill themselves are manipulative and vengeful. “It’s not fair,” she said. “Parents should know that the premise itself is unrealistic.” While you could argue people who die by suicide share a common pain, they’re diverse in what actually drives them and shouldn’t be simplified to a stereotype. 

Talk about the resources available for someone who’s feeling suicidal.

Another criticism about the show was that it didn’t show successful help-seeking. Use this as an opportunity to educate your child about what resources are available for someone who needs help. Here are some essentials:

Crisis Text Line: Text “HOME” to 741-741 to text with a free trained crisis counselor, 24/7.

Suicide Prevention Lifeline: If you prefer to talk to someone over the phone, you can call 1-800-273-8255.

Teen LineIf your child would rather talk to a peer, they can text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. PST.

You can create a safe space for talking about suicide.

If the show sparked the first conversation you had with your family about suicide, don’t let it be your last. Make sure your children feel comfortable talking about suicidal thoughts in a shame-free environment. Tell your teen there’s nothing shameful about having suicidal thoughts and that they can talk to you and get support if they’re ever feeling hopeless.

Know the that last episode is graphic — and make sure your child knows how to get support if they need it.

It’s important for viewers to know the last episode shows Hannah dying by suicide — and that if they struggle with suicidal ideation (or not), it might be hard to watch. “I don’t know how one could properly prepare for that,” Stage said. “Not only was the suicide scene really graphic, you can get a sense in that last episode that you were watching a thriller.” Stage suggests to get support if you need it, or, if you’re not ready, skip the episode entirely. 

Lastly, know the “issue” with “13 Reasons Why” is not that it talks about suicide. We should be talking about suicide. But as arguably the most popular modern narrative that focuses on a suicide, this show has a lot of power to shape how young people think about those who die by suicide and why people die by suicide — and it’s unfortunately not enough. Especially if your child is being bullied, struggles with depression or has even survived a suicide attempt — they need to know there’s more information about suicide out there and that they’re not alone. Because while the fictional Hannah Backer left behind tapes, many, many more suicide attempt survivors and suicide loss survivors have stories to tell — and they also deserve our ears and hearts.

To connect with other suicide attempt survivors: Live Through This

To connect with other suicide loss survivors: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

To read the guidelines for reporting on/discussing suicide: Reporting on Suicide

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

Lead image via 13 Reasons Why Facebook page

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Remembering Amy Bleuel; Her Story Is Not Over

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It is with profound sadness that I write about my friend who died by suicide recently. She was a passionate, creative soul who strived to live on daily. She was an artist with an astounding view for the world around her. Now more than ever, I can see how she beautifully captured it in her own unique way. Her perseverance, dedication and the persistence she carried helped her to face each day. Her compassion and love for others will forever strike a chord in those who knew her. Her name is Amy Bleuel.

As difficult as this is to write, I wanted to reassure everyone that Amy’s memory lives on; her story is not over.

After her death, I watched the community come together. It was beautiful to see her family, her friends and supporters join together to celebrate Amy’s life. As I sat back and listened to her friends and family share their stories of Amy, I could not help but think about how greatly Amy served others. In fact, it was the pain she endured that in turn allowed her to open up to love and help so many others.

Losing a loved one can indeed bring misery, hardship, strain, heartache and a great amount of hurt. What I have learned, though, is that we can begin to heal by sharing our loved one’s story with others.

Rocks with butterflied painted on them that say "Rise Together"
The rocks were a gift that we received form Amy.

It has been said that hope can be found right between faith and love. I believe this to be true. It is there that we can continue on, sharing time with those we care about, remembering those we have lost and raise the good memories that are so dear to us. We can remember the times we laughed, the times we got excited, the times we got angry, the times we dreamed, and even the times we cried. It is in those moments that we experience life together.

You see, Amy and I didn’t always see eye-to-eye and there was a period of time that our friendship completely fell apart. During that time, I could have never imagined I’d be sitting here writing about her death, as we always want to believe we have more time. As heart wrenching as this is, it does bring me great joy that we were recently able to set aside our differences, let go of our resentments and begin to make amends. About a week before her passing, Amy and I were text messaging.

A crowd

Scrolling back on these final messages pains my heart greatly but also brings me joy. She was loving, caring and excited about life. I remember inviting Amy to speak on stage with me that day. We were in a casino of all places, speaking to over 1,000 youth from various tribal communities here in Wisconsin. It was great to see everyone working together to make a difference. We stood up and spoke out that day with strong compassionate voices. For Amy, I am sure it helped to inspire her to speak out even louder than she ever had before. I smile now, as I remember her even standing in the back and on the side of the stage taking photos. She was such a talented photographer. Man… what blast we had that day.

The last time I saw Amy was a few weeks before she passed. We met at Seth’s Coffee in Little Chute. We shared stories and conversed about life over cups of coffee. We talked about normal things, really. It was great to see a smile on her face. It was great to be sitting there just talking as two friends. We didn’t talk much about business, which was rare for us, but more about the good things we were experiencing. As always, she asked how my children were doing. She even brought a few jars of pickles for my son because she knew he loved them. That’s something I realized over the past few days. She always was giving her friends little gifts. It was her own little way to show appreciation.

As much as she will be missed, she will never be forgotten. I believe that we all can find some comfort in this. Whether you knew Amy personally or you recently have lost a loved one of your own, you can still help bring a voice to the voiceless. You can share these types of memories with the people and the world around you. In doing so, we can all find a way to smile even during the most difficult times.

“Everyone who knew Amy saw her passion and dedication to helping others cope with their struggles in life. She always wore her heart on her sleeve, which is never easy,” said Jeff Strommen, Executive Director of the Brown County Suicide Prevention Coalition. “Her passing is truly a loss felt in our community and across the world. If Amy were here right now, she would want me to tell you that your story isn’t over. Stay strong; love endlessly.”

My hope here is to help you understand who Amy was as a person, even outside of the project. We all know that we can’t change the past but what we can do is learn from it, grow from it and cherish it. I want you to continue walking with me in her memory and sharing her story with those around you; especially with those struggling. We must not give up. We must push forward and carry the power of love with us.

It is in these times that we can search for a greater understanding of mental illness and addiction. It is in these times that we can search for stronger preventative measures. It is in these times we can find allies, supporters, peers, friends and family to join us in these efforts to eliminate the stigma around mental health and addiction. It is in these times we can band arms together, support one another, unite and rise together to save lives.

I cannot fully understand what Amy’s family must be going through at this time, but what I do know is that we can call out to them with our support, our prayers and our condolences. Amy was more than her mission. She was a beautiful soul that will live on in our memories forever.

For everyone out there, keep the stories going. Share your own. Find your purpose like Amy found hers. Serve others in your own unique way. By doing so, I promise you this world will be a greater place to live than we may have ever seen before.

Much love always,
Anthony Alvarado
President of Rise Together

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Lead image via Project Semicolon

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Why People With Mental Illness Need to Be Careful When Watching '13 Reasons Why'

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Many of you have probably heard about the new Netflix TV Series, “13 Reasons Why.” If you haven’t, I’ll give you a quick description of the plot.

A girl named Hannah Baker kills herself and leaves behind a set of 13 cassette tapes that describe 13 reasons why she killed herself. Each tape belongs to someone who hurt her and made her want to kill herself. The tapes get passed along to each person who ever hurt her. Meanwhile, her parents are struggling to cope with her death and decide to create a lawsuit against the school in their frustration with the administrative board for not helping her when she needed it most.

The series follows Clay Jensen, a friend of Hannah’s. He receives the tapes on his doorstep one night and starts listening. As he gets deeper and deeper into the tapes, he loses his control of emotions and goes to each of the people on the tapes before him to get them to confess to what they did so he can find justice for Hannah.

This series really gives a powerful and important message on bullying, mental illness, rape, self harm and suicide, but if you’re not in a good place, it can be dangerous to watch.

I was told by a couple friends I probably shouldn’t watch the show because there are so many ways I could get triggered. But I wanted to see the show for myself to see if the message of the show was true to my understanding of mental illness, self harm and suicide.

The show is dark and despairing. There is so much hurting, and for someone who is already in a bad place, the show has the potential to send someone off into a much darker abyss than before.

There are many scenes when your heart is wrenched in emotion and sympathy for what Hannah experienced, and scenes when you see the issues are so real. Much realer than you would imagine from a Netflix TV series.

The scene at the end of the series when you actually see Hannah die is the most dangerous scene to see as someone struggling with mental illness. It’s blunt and honest, and there’s nothing left out. You see everything. Before getting angry over this triggering scene, you need to understand this detail is actually pretty relevant to the show in order for your eyes to be opened to suicide. However, this “detail” can easily send a recovering self-harmer into a relapse, so there is a positive and negative.

I do honestly believe this show was very real and for the most part quite accurate to what mental illness is like. Obviously they can’t get everything right, but they truly got close. I think this show is good for people who don’t understand suicide or the warning signs to watch for. More than being a form of entertainment, it can be a form of education.

This is not me saying you need to watch this show. In fact, if you are struggling, I suggest you wait. I think you will understand when you are ready, because I knew when I was. I was told by friends to be careful about watching it, but I was ready for what was to come and I felt I was at a good enough place where I could watch the show without getting triggered. And that’s a decision you have to be able to make. Only you can decide what you can and can’t handle. Keep yourself safe.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

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6 Reasons I Believe High School Students Should Watch '13 Reasons Why'

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Wow. I am almost done with the first season of “13 Reasons Why,” and my heart is heavy. My heart is heavy because I was in Hannah’s shoes. I was that high school kid who contemplated suicide but didn’t go through with it. I’ve seen criticism of the show, and can understand some of the concern. But in my opinion, this is a must-watch — especially for high schoolers.

Here are six reasons why you should watch the show, from a kid who almost shared Hannah’s fate.

1. It realistically portrays what far too many high schools are like in America, today. The bullying, the rampant peer pressure and constant desire to fit in.

2. It shows just how powerful words and actions are, and how real their consequences can be.

3. It shows the need to rethink how counselors talk about mental health and bullying, especially at the high school level.

4. It accurately shows just how clueless some parents are when it comes to their child’s behavior, and the stunning lack of accountability there is when it comes to technology and online behavior.

5. It can make us question what someone is going through, and the potential need to reach out to others who could be hurting.

6. Finally, it shows high schoolers just how toxic their environment can be, and the real need to be a friend to all — regardless of looks or socioeconomic status.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Photo via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

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