13 reasons why meme

To the People Who Think '13 Reasons Why' Is Meme Material

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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.

To be clear, I haven’t watched a single episode of “13 Reasons Why.” I’ve seen it has triggered a lot of people in crisis who are vulnerable towards topics regarding mental health, suicide and self-harm. Because of this, in order to protect my mental well-being, I haven’t seen it or won’t see it anytime soon.

What I know so far is the series shows Hannah, an adolescent who dies by suicide mails 13 tapes to 13 people who harmed her and as she explains in the tapes, are the reasons she took her own life.

But I have social networks, and I’ve seen the boom it has had on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. And so, I felt I had the need to ask others to watch it responsibly.

What does this mean? In my very own, personal opinion, if you know you are vulnerable, don’t watch it. I know it can be tempting — the curiosity, the idea — but your mental health matters way too much more than watching the “hip series” of the moment.

This doesn’t mean in any way I’m encouraging people to not watch it. I’m saying having a mental health condition carries certain responsibilities and I believe one of them is to watch after yourself and if it’s possible, not expose yourself to triggers that can lead to crisis.

I’ve seen some interviews of the creators and producers. I admire them because they make clear that the purpose of the show is to create awareness about suicide, mental health and bullying — among other topics. They did it so those who struggle in silence would speak up and know they aren’t alone and their life is worth saving.

If you watch the show with this purpose, kudos to you, too.

But I’ve seen the other side. The reality of a world where everything is “meme material,” where people watch the show solely for the morbid curiosity of watching a girl be in so much pain she takes her own life (in a very graphic way as I know). People watch it, like watching something so external to their reality and so impossible to happen to them, and they dare to criticize and defend the people who hurt her. Some say she just wanted attention.

I’ve seen thousands of memes on Instagram that say, “When you text your best friend and she doesn’t answer” or “When your boyfriend doesn’t send you a goodnight text” or “When you find out your friends made plans without you” or even “When your sibling ate the piece of cake you were saving for yourself.” The answer to all these memes is: “Welcome to your tape,” because this is what Hannah says to those who are a “reason” for her death.

This is absolutely irresponsible, and misses the point of the show.

For those who share these memes and talk in such a criticizing way of suicide without compassion for those who experience it, I have a few words.

You aren’t watching a science fiction show that portrays an unrealistic scenario. This, with variations, is the reality of so many of us who struggle with suicidal ideation and self-harm.  Those of us for whom, being alive is a daily choice. For many, this show is just 13 episodes to binge-watch on Netflix, but for others, it is a daily demon they can’t escape. Instead of criticizing, or saying “This can’t happen,” I encourage you to look around. Be kinder to those who need you. Pay attention to those brave people in your environment that admit they live with a mental health condition. When someone talks about suicide please pay attention and give them reasons to be alive. Please don’t just say it’s a “call for attention” and when you see someone who self-harms, be empathic towards their pain.

This show isn’t depicting an isolated reality. This may be the life of someone who might be sitting next to you.

Suicide isn’t a joke. Suicide isn’t meme material. It’s an awful reality.

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.

Screenshot via @realgameprophet on Twitter.

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Remembering Two Gentle Souls Lost to Suicide

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Editor’s note: This story has been published with permission from Brian’s mother.

Today, I wept for Brian.

He took his own life in March 2015, the same month of the same year my partner, Steve, left us. I never met Brian, nor do I know his family. However, I have connected with his Mom, Norma, through social media as a fellow suicide survivor. Although Steve and Brian were from different parts of the country (Brian from rural Pacific Northwest, Steve from urban Long Island, NY) and Steve was about twice the age of Brian, I believe they were kindred spirits and had they known each other, they would have fast become good friends.

Last night, I was having a Facebook chat with Norma. She shared some stories and photos of Brian with me that truly touched my soul. Norma could have been talking
about Steve.

One time, Brian had rescued an owl with a broken wing that some juveniles had thrown into a lake, trying to drown it. He jumped in to rescue the owl and took care of it that night until he could get it to a veterinarian to check it out. Then after the vet treated the broken wing, Brian took the owl to a nature preserve for rehabilitation. This reminded me of the time when Steve and I found a featherless baby bird near death on the ground. Steve gently placed the bird in a small box with some hay and climbed a telephone pole to put the box closer to the nest built in a transformer where it probably had fallen from.

Norma shared another sweet story about Brian with me. One time while driving, he could not avoid hitting a rabbit that darted in front of his car. Brian stopped the car and picked up the barely alive rabbit and held and comforted the poor bunny until it finally died. Then he made a little grave for it alongside the road and buried it there with a small cross he created.

Brian had several rescued pet rabbits, as did Steve and I. Per his Mom, Brian hated all the horrible things that happen to animals and people. He couldn’t understand how some people could be so cruel. Steve was much like that himself. Brian and Steve, two gentle souls.

This planet was a far better place with Brian and Steve in it. To me, they were the epitome of strong men; not afraid to show their kindness, compassion or sensitivity. As it has been said, you can always judge the character of a man by how he treats the weaker among us. The actions of Brian and Steve speak volumes about the type of men they were.

The photos in this blog are worth a thousand words. Brian and Steve are holding the rabbits with such tenderness. If prey animals like rabbits can be so at ease in a human’s arms, it says a lot about the trust worthiness of those people. As a volunteer for a rabbit rescue organization, I know that rabbits do not give their trust lightly.

Brian and Steve represent the countless others among us who suffer silently. Their lives had so much value and in their own ways, they each made positive impacts on the lives of others. I tell their stories to inspire conversation about mental health with the hopes that there will be new, effective treatments developed and so that others may someday come forward without shame and seek help.

This world so desperately needs people like Brian and Steve more than ever. Their passing was such a great loss not just for their loved ones, but for humanity itself. Even though they are no longer with us, I believe the legacies of Brian and Steve will endure and in some way, help others; something it seems they both did so well in life.

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 contributor

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A man in the middle of answering a question. Text on the screen reads: He tried to kill himself, he must be weak.

Suicide Attempt Survivors Answer Questions You'd Never Ask in Person

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In a video released by ABC TV on Wednesday, suicide attempt survivors answer questions people have, but would never dare ask in person. The video is part of a series called, “You Can’t Ask That,” a TV show based in Australia that asks personal and sometimes hilariously blunt questions to “misunderstood, judged or marginalized” groups of people, according to ABC’s site.

In the promo video posted on Facebook, suicide attempt survivors read out loud questions from the public. The questions shine light on the general misconceptions people have about those who try to take their lives – and their answers reveal some truth, putting a face on a misunderstood issue.

The full episode aired Wednesday night on ABC TV.

How would you answer these questions asked in the video? Tell us in the comments below.

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.

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Hannah Baker From '13 Reasons Why' Could Have Been Me

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Editor’s note: If you struggle with suicidal ideation or self-harm, or have experienced sexual abuse or assault, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click hereYou can contact the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.

The binge-worthy Netflix teenage drama, “13 Reasons Why” is sweeping social media feeds everywhere. Each time I see the title, “13 Reasons Why,” all I can think is that it could have been my story. Before you read any further, this article has spoilers. If you want to watch the show without me ruining the surprise, stop reading.

“13 Reasons Why” tells the story of Hannah, a teenage girl who dies by suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes, each one describing a different person who contributed to the events leading to her suicide and why.

It was existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre who said, “Hell is other people,” which highlights the difficulty of the human condition, highlighting how each person can be the torturer of another, by subjecting them to judgment and alienation. This, in essence, is what “13 Reasons Why” is about — and what my story is about, too.

Like many major life events, I still remember my first day of middle school.

The summer between fifth and sixth grade, in the midst of AOL instant messaging (our main internet activity at the time) and chasing each other around the pool, the girls blossomed into young women and the boys started to slowly become men. More importantly though, where I lived, two elementary schools merged into one middle school. I was filled with exhilaration upon meeting all the new girls (potential best friends?) and new boys (potential love interests?).

The end of the first day of sixth grade, I opened a crumbled piece of paper by a new boy— — the most popular jock from the “other school.” In scribbled handwriting, was a short, simple message. “You have a nice ass,” and his AOL instant messenger name.

Outwardly, Hannah didn’t appear to have the “warning signs” we may be accustomed to seeing in someone who struggles with depression. For Hannah, each event or mistreatment was like a spark igniting a fire, slow at first, and then before she knew it, she was engulfed.

In the second episode, it’s revealed Hannah earned a spot on Alex’s “Hot List,” under “Best Ass.”

As time went on, I struggled to find my place in the social hierarchy of middle school. I’ve always “walked to the beat of my own drum,” but in middle school, I might as well been playing a different instrument entirely. I managed to find a tiny group of friendswe liked the same kind of punk or metal, liked wearing black, sarcasm and hating everyone else. I felt like I fit somewhere for a minute.

In between college-ruled binder papers of pre-algebra and creative writing, I struggled with my sexualityas many teens do. I wanted to explore the feelings and urges, but like Hannah did, I often found myself the target of objectification by boys and “slut-shaming” by girls.

One afternoon after school, on a warm, early spring afternoon, I remember a group of boys gathered their lunch money and asked me if I would show them my boobs. I said I wouldn’t take their money, but showed them my boobs anyway. The rush of attention and male gaze felt exhilarating, but  then I went home, cried, found a razor blade I hid in my sock drawer and self-harmed. I had no idea how to express what I was feeling. I didn’t have the words or the self-awareness to realize I was being objectified and didn’t like it.

The next day at school, a small group of “popular girls” whispered about me. Girls were worried I’d steal their boyfriends, girls called me a “whore.” The rumors were true, but I had no idea how to cope with the backlash I received from girls I thought were my friends. How are young girls supposed to handle their blooming hormones and sexuality with cyberbulling and sexting?

I was proud of my body, but it felt like a curse.

And then seventh grade happened. One night in October, I went over to my friends house to work on a project. Two boys also came to work on the project with usone was the aforementioned jock, who had spent the last few weeks aggressively flirting with me over instant messaging, but wouldn’t look in my direction at school. They brought a joint with them. I had never smoked pot before. I took one hit.

What happened next is a blur. It’s common for sexual assault survivors to dissociate, much like Hannah Baker did in episode 12. I was not raped, but I can’t tell you the details, even to this day. I remember the door locking and the blue glow of early autumn dusk. I remember my friend pounding on the doorbegging them to open it. I remember not being able to talk or move. I was frozen.

The coming weeks were a struggle of sanity. I couldn’t focus, my body and my mind felt detached and then I started having panic attacks. Then one day in P.E., another girl asked me if that boy had ever done anything to me I didn’t agree to.

The two boys had done similar things to a few girls, who had come forward and accused them. This was the first time I realized people don’t usually believe girlsit seems like it’s always our fault. I didn’t want to believe it happened to other girls either, but I knew it did, because it happened to me.

In Hannah’s story, everyone wants to protect the popular football player rapist. Her guidance counselor blames her for being raped because she never said “no.”

One afternoon, I sat in the principal’s office with the sheriff of my small East Bay town. He accused me of smoking pot, saying I couldn’t have possibly been assaulted because I was under the influence. Because I couldn’t provide specific details to the sheriff that day, they told me I had no way to prove anything.

I thought the worst was over,  until everyone found out details of the accusations against two of the most popular boys in our grade and started accusing me of being a liar. I was helpless, an isolated target dressed in all black.

How does a mentally fragile teenage girl with an affinity for self-harm handle a large portion of her peers calling her a “slut” and a “liar”? By self-destructing and cutting, obviously. I distanced myself from every friend I had, and asked my mom to excuse me from most of my classes. I sat in the school psychologist’s office most afternoons. I was having panic attacks almost every day. Weeks later, I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Hannah dealt with slut-shaming, bullying and assault. I dealt with it by escaping.  I transferred schools in ninth grade. By not confronting the rumors and stigmas, I may have tarnished my reputation, but I saved my life.

Watching “13 Reasons Why” showed me I could have been Hannah Baker too. I could have ended my life. I know I thought about it a lot.

Suicidal depression is rarely caused just by people treating another person badly.  It’s usually in conjunction with biological factors.

Today, I still struggle with the after effects of sexual assault, bullying and slut-shaming, even 15 years later. But I am so happy I chose to survive, that I chose life instead. For a while, it was hard to imagine I could ever get beyond the demons in my head, and sometimes it still is. These kinds of traumas can cause things like PTSD and even change our brains.

“13 Reasons Why” is also meant to show how horrible teenagers can be to one another, but what this showed me is we still treat each other like this as adults. In the mediaeven from our own presidentwe see slut-shaming, violence against women and victim blaming. We reward “boys behaving badly,” especially when they are rich and white.

The rape culture we live in is real. Our own president muttered the words “Grab ’em by the pussy,” with no repercussions. Many teenage boys receive their sexual education from porn. I’m inclined to believe part of the reason we have such a hard time believing victims and punishing assault is that we, as a culture, don’t understand what sexual assault really is. If we as a society are only taught about relationships and sex from pornwhich rarely ever portrays any form of consenteveryone loses. Young people who watch porn can be taught sex is theirs for the taking.

In “13 Reasons Why,” Bryce — the popular white male jock — proclaims, “Oh please, if that’s rape, then like you know all the girls on campus are asking me to rape them.” In the series he rapes an unconscious Jessica and later, Hannah. He doesn’t even understand what he’s doing is wrong.

“13 Reasons Why” is meant to be a lesson in compassion and communication to people we may not realize are struggling — which is actually all of us, but some, more than others. I want to believe “13 Reasons Why” ends up being a definitive piece of sexual assault, suicide and bullying prevention.

Sometimes, “I believe you,” are three of the most important words anyone can hear.

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.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

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

Screenshot via “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page trailer. 

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Why It Will Take More Than a Successful TV Show to Raise Awareness About Suicide

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Two weekends ago, I binged-watched “13 Reasons Why” on Netflix, knowing I probably shouldn’t. I read the book a few years ago and didn’t need to see it on a screen to understand the pain and trauma, as suicide has impacted my life personally. I lost my dad when I was eight years old and I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression. To be honest, by the time I got to the end of the last episode, I felt the trauma again. I felt empty. It was graphic, but every time I tried to look away, my eyes never moved. It brought up painful feelings and hurt. It’s a fictional television show, but for many, including me, it’s a reality. That’s what I feel as though has gotten lost in the tornado of success the show has had. Suicide shouldn’t be glamorized. Pain shouldn’t be glamorized. Mental illness shouldn’t be glamorized. It’s the reality of millions of people.

Though I’m glad the show has started the conversation, I’m sad it’s taken something fictional to start a conversation, to talk about things that are taboo and tough, but need to be shared. It shouldn’t take a show for people to realize we need to be kind, that we need to treat others with respect and compassion.

It’s the little things that matter most. When you ask someone how they’re doing, do you mean it? Is it just a conversation filler? Do you really care? Those three words could change someone’s day and life. When you start with kindness and compassion, things change. When people realize you’re reaching out because you care, things can change. We live in a dismal world where it’s particularly easy to get caught up in the materialism, the cynicism and pure hatred. It’s all around us. The news, social media, society, etc.  But it’s also easy not to. The difference between you and I, between us and any person in the world should bring us together, not tear us apart. When we lead with curiosity and acceptance, the world becomes a kinder place. I’m not sure how to get there, but it starts with you and I — it shouldn’t start with a television show.

Without a doubt, “13 Reasons Why” has facilitated a conversation about suicide, mental health and bullying, but why has it taken this long? The painful reality is there’s so much ignorance around suicide and mental health. Many don’t understand — or choose not to understand — that like other body parts, our brains can also break down, can also be sick. Invisible illnesses that very much ravage the bodies and minds of millions of people every second of every day. Similarly, many don’t understand suicide isn’t cowardly or makes a person “weak.” Some people literally get to a point where they cannot withstand their pain, the illness in their head. We have to get people the help they need when they need it. We have to be kind and empathetic. We have to talk about it, to let people know they’re not alone.

This is not a shot against “13 Reasons Why,” by any means. If you want to watch it, watch it. If you don’t want to watch it, don’t watch it. The beautiful thing is we have a choice. Regardless of whether you watch it or not, I hope more people can start choosing kindness in this tough world and start choosing compassion instead of hate. A television shouldn’t have to teach anyone this. We should already know this.

We never know the pain another human is going through. Visible or invisible, pain is real, mental illness is real, suicide is real and it takes more than a successful television show to raise awareness.

I am loved more than I may know. You are loved more than you may know. Start with kindness and end with kindness. Be open-minded. Have compassion. Be understanding.

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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Hope for Those With Bipolar Disorder Who Have Lost Someone to Suicide

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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 March 20, 2013, I lost my precious younger brother to suicide. He was only 25 years old, and had a lovely 2-year-old daughter. Needless to say, this has been a devastating experience for our family. I miss my brother terribly, and there is an endless void. That being said, however, our family is not without hope.

Being a person with bipolar disorder, the death of my brother to suicide opens up fears for my own safety as well. It is well known that there is a higher incidence of suicide in persons with bipolar disorder than in the general population. Add to that the statistical fact that family members of suicide victims have a higher risk as well. To top it off, include my own history of some bouts with severe depression and suicidal thoughts, and you can see how this would be a legitimate fear.

So, how does one with bipolar disorder and a family history of suicide cope? How do we assure the statistics will not represent us? How do we find hope, and optimism, in the face of such bleak statistics?

My first measure for coping has been to pour myself into organizations and volunteer efforts that support suicide prevention. I have become a Field Advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and I worked for two years on a fundraising effort for them through a local retail company. Doing this has been helpful, not only to try and save the lives of others, but to expose myself to resources, materials and messages that inspire hope and share coping methods.

My second way of coping has been to open up about my illness. As a nurse, I had been very secretive about my disorder prior to my brother’s death. Losing him caused me to re-evaluate my stance on the matter. It wasn’t enough just to think, “Someone out there with bipolar disorder, who is doing well, should open up about it so that others can have hope.” I now needed to be that person, not only for my own mental health (being open about it takes a weight off your shoulders), but in order to fulfill the mission to be a beacon of hope for others with various and sundry emotional conditions. Through doing so, I have had the honor and privilege of helping friends, loved ones and acquaintances find help and hope in the midst of various emotional crises. This has helped reinforce my resolve and commitment to stick around for others.

Lastly, I have taken to writing blog posts on my personal blog site, as well as poetry, that focuses on mental health, emotional issues and hope. This has helped immensely in terms of coping with my brother’s death and my own disorder. I highly recommend the healing power of poetry.

Speaking of which, I have added a poem I wrote that helps me when I am feeling down. It reminds me of a bright sunny day that is on the horizon. No matter how you feel, what you have done or where you have been, there is always, always, hope.

When Darkness Descends

When darkness descends

On your soul and your heart

When the pitch-black angst

Makes all you know dark

When the wind in your spirit

Howls at the moon

When the stress is so potent

You feel you could swoon

When the panic sets in

And you know not where you’ll go

And the vultures and demons

They torture you so….

There’s a train that leaves the station

Just before dawn

With the Angels and the Saints

Who will come to lead you on

From the tracks full of darkness

Through the tunnel you will go

If you look real closely

A light will surely glow

It radiates beams

Through the harrowing night

Though it may not be a spotlight

It still comes to your sight

And you follow and follow

Steered by faith, not just your eyes

The train it is a comin’

Angels and Saints, they never lie

They are coming to carry you

Through the wind and the storm

Their wings will protect you

And their hearts will keep you warm

I see it, I see now

It’s finally near

They come and they greet me

Their song of joy I hear

The darkness behind me

Cannot keep it away

The Angels and Saints

Bring a new sunny day

God’s train it is a comin’

Keep your eyes upon the Lord

His love it will a-find you

Keep the faith,

You shall endure

In loving memory of Joey Blanton-Harris, my brother and friend.

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.

Unsplash photo via Ethan Robertson

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