The author and her late husband at the beach

This past week, I finally finished a video to complement the message of my memoir about Steve Tarpinian, “Slipped Away.” Steve died by suicide in 2015 and was my soul mate for over 33 years. The video was a true labor of love, taking me many, many hours of choosing photos, designing a layout and writing the script. Then, it took more than six hours for a videographer to execute my vision.

My biggest concern was that at six minutes, the video was too long. After all, the average adult attention span is eight seconds (I am guilty of this short attention span myself). This was after cutting out approximately 60 seconds of photos/voiceover. I decided I could not cut any more if I wanted to do justice to Steve’s life and legacy and also allow his story to hopefully help others. The challenge I had was how do I get such important messages across in less than two or three minutes: that things are not always as they seem for people who have depression and mental illness. Many of those afflicted are very good at hiding their pain, as was the case with Steve.

I also wanted to show how much Steve was loved and the legacy he left behind. Steve’s story is not unique; for every suicide, there are so many unanswered questions, the pain of those who are left behind and the sudden loss of a precious life. The stigma associated with suicide and mental illness is alive and well. I decided I would not compromise my vision for this project by cutting the video down to two or three minutes duration.

After all, what is six minutes out of our day? How often do we spend more than that waiting in line at the post office, sitting in traffic or even looking at our social media accounts? My hope is that in the six minutes of my “Slipped Away” video, you can walk away with a new found perspective that mental illness and suicide can happen to anyone. Or, it may help you be more sympathetic to those who live with it, or perhaps it may make you realize that you have a loved one who may be struggling and you never thought that could be possible. Even if watching and listening to the messages of the video gives you pause to be grateful for those loved ones who are still with you in your life, that you give them a hug and tell them you love them, then keeping the video at six minutes is well worth it.

My expectations for the video’s impact are probably too high. I am thankful for those who watched the video, liked it and even commented on it. However, very few are sharing  it. Is this because they already spent six minutes watching it and forgot to share it, having to move on to their next focus? Or, could they not share it on social media because they do not feel comfortable acknowledging suicide and mental illness?

The path I have chosen, to inspire conversation about mental health issues, is daunting and exhausting at times. By chance, this morning on the news, there was a segment on J.K. Rowling. She was turned down several times by publishers before “Harry Potter” became one of the greatest phenomena in children’s literature, with sales of more than 400 million copies worldwide. At the end of the segment, the message, which I so desperately needed to hear, was to finish what I started. There is much to be learned in the process. Rejection does not imply failure.

I truly believe there is no such thing as overnight success. I have only been at this for
two years; who knows, it may be another 10 years of perseverance and being “gum in the hair” before I have any real success. I define my success as having the ability to  donate sizable dollar amounts from the proceeds of Slipped Away’s sales to a nonprofit veterans organization, Project 9 Line, that provides outlets for veterans who has post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. That, along with the telling of Steve’s story such that it can help thousands of others, and to inspire conversation about mental illness and suicide on a large scale, will constitute a huge triumph for me.

Until that  time comes, I will continue to tell Steve’s story, even if it takes me more than six minutes.

 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.

Image via contributor

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Isn’t it ironic that the problem that might have influenced his suicide is the one I’m facing now?

Total and complete anxiety I’ve never had before that incident happened. I mean I would definitley experience anxiety occasionally, but I never considered myself an anxious person. Somehow, this young man’s suicide changed my life and became a trigger that opened my dark side.

I was always afraid of darkness, but it had never astounded me. I haven’t laid in bed at night frozen by fear since since I was a kid. And even in those times, I used to go to my parents’ bedroom and ask my mom to sleep with me. Fairly, it never made my dad happy, but mom always came to my bed and my demons were gone. Unlike now. Even when I sleep with my fiancé, I still can’t move, open my eyes or feel relaxed during the night. I wake up of every even slightly perceptible sound staring at darkness with eyes full of fear and tears. And it’s only one small piece of the anxiety puzzle I discovered. Just a little worry and I’m completely choking without any ability to breath or move.

The other sign of my anxiety is “eating and destroying myself” by biting lips till they’re inflamed and bleeding and picking my fingernails till they are bleeding too. I can’t help it. I don’t control it. Whenever I have free hands, I find myself doing that.
Interesting, that exactly the day before his suicide, he told us about his anxiety attacks and sleeping problems… but we didn’t realize it was so serious. We thought he was talking about a light form of anxiety teenagers sometimes have meeting new people, or when they’re too critical to themselves. What if I was more empathetic, would he still be alive? What if I could relate to him? What if his soul is still somewhere around?

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 m-gucci


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

“You can’t stop the future. You can’t rewind the past. The only way to learn the secret… is to press play.” — “Thirteen Reasons Why”

We live in 21st Century America. We are the generation of technology. We hide behind the anonymity of a screen and speak our minds freely, for better or for worse. We are the generation of internet bullying, cyber stalking, and peer pressure. Our social media has taken over our lives. This has its benefits, yes, but more often than not, we hear of the horrors that come with it. Our television and movies follow similar trends and are filled with violence, objectification of the human form and foul language. These things are what is popular and what is sensationalized.

So, when I read of one of my favorite books becoming a movie, I admit, I was immediately intrigued.

I have read hundreds — no thousands — of books in my lifetime. It has always been a big part of who I am. I am ashamed to say this, but when I read “Thirteen Reasons Why” for the first time, I was appalled. You see, at this time, I was a mere fifth grader and had not yet learned the lessons on mental health I now know. I fell prey to the media’s portrayal as mental health being “taboo” and a subject that shouldn’t be discussed. Yet, here I was reading this book that rawly and emotionally captured a young girl’s suicide, the reasons behind it and the aftermath. Looking back, that one book was the spark that ignited the fire in me to view mental health differently although I admit it did not fully occur until late middle school.  There are few books I read again, as when I read a book I tend to remember it almost perfectly. However, I have read “Thirteen Reasons Why” more times than I care to say.

“13 Reasons Why” is the Netflix series which premiered March 31 and is based on author Jay Asher’s young adult bestseller “Thirteen Reasons Why.” It is about what happens when the bullying, sexting, betrayed friendships, doublespeak conversations and sheer loneliness of high school get to be too much for teenager Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) that she ultimately takes her own life. But Hannah wasn’t going down without naming some names. Her suicide note comes in the form of audio recordings, in which she recounts exactly what — and who — led her to fall into this pit of hopelessness. The finger pointing and slut shaming among the accused evolves into such a frenzy that alliances are formed and friends turn on each other. This all happens under the watchful eye of Clay Jensen, an outsider with a penchant for typical boy cluelessness: saying the inappropriate and lacking the social awareness to understand when a girl wants to date him. Played by Dylan Minnette, Clay is both the slowest listener to audio recordings ever and teenager least aware of what he did to hurt Hannah. As Clay becomes a vigilante to save the girl who is too late to rescue, he doesn’t realize these two traits mean he could also be the survivor who has the most to lose.

For some it can be almost easy to lose yourself in the gossip and drama typical of any high school, coming of age story. This is one of the reasons the show is so important. “13 Reasons Why” is much more than one girl’s tragic story. It hold many lessons each and every one of us can learn from.

1. This could be any girl at any school.

Liberty High (the setting of the show) is a typical school. The show portrays well the friendship woes, the dating craze, the pressure to fit in, the bullying and prejudice that occurs and the stresses of keeping up with your courses alongside extracurriculars. Hannah Baker is a typical girl. She has a job, friends, a boyfriend (at one point) and even went to parties. However, she is also the victim of bullying and sexual harassment. Yet, she never stopped smiling and pretending everything was OK. This description, unfortunately, fits many teenage girls (and boys) in our society.

2. Everyone had a chance to save Hannah from herself.

Her parents, played by Kate Walsh and Brian D’Arcy James, were too worried about money and how to keep their tiny family-run pharmacy afloat after the arrival of a big-box chain to notice the warning signs. And her well-meaning, if misguided, communications instructor unknowingly accentuates problems when she turns Hannah’s stolen, private poems into classroom conversations instead of seeing them as cries for help. I won’t go into more detail on how everyone else had a chance to save Hannah from herself, as this is the entire point of the show — however, the signs were there, hidden in some ways and abundantly present in others. But as we see clearly in our own lives, many of us are transfixed on ourselves, not looking at anything but our own worries and climbing the ladder to success, that we fail to see what is right in front of us. We see this even in the aftermath of Hannah’s suicide as the parents and teachers are too busy questioning how they didn’t see this coming to see what’s brewing among the remaining students. The show calls attention to this and I believe it can be a major wake up call to all of us. Had anyone shown her the kind of love, admiration and compassion they show her in death, perhaps she would have found the strength not to end her story.

3. Sometimes there is not a big reason.

The title of the show is “13 Reasons Why.” However, as we watch, we hear about more than just 13 reasons. There was no big cause for Hannah Baker and I believe this is important. I despise the questions “What’s wrong?” and “What is your problem?” They have always been incredibly frustrating to me, as I am sure they are to many, especially those who struggle with mental health. Sometimes (oftentimes) there is no specific reason why. It is the “seems” that appear small and unimportant that add up. This can be likened to rain. Each raindrop is so small yet, let it rain long enough, it will flood.

4. Suicide affects many people.

This is one point of the show that hit me the hardest. Everyone. I want to repeat, everyone, has been affected by Hannah’s death. Students she never spoke to, the friends she never knew she had, teachers, parents, the entire school mourns her loss. As someone who personally struggles with my mental health, I know how all too often we feel alone, as though if we were to disappear, no one would care. Societal judgement and actions further compound this. However, “13 Reasons Why” clearly illustrates how this is far from true. Everyone had a story of Hannah, something they loved, a memory, a reason they missed her. Yes, some of the students used her death as a popularity token, but the majority of others were truly affected. With this, I want to say to everyone who feels alone, hurt and broken, you are loved and cared about so much more than you realize. Whether people show it or not, I truly believe everyone has a small thing they love about every single person. This world may have seven billion people, but it needs you, your voice, your story. You are not alone. Your struggles do not define you and you are so much more than any of the cruel things that are said to you, by yourself or others.

I was speaking with someone the other day regarding the show and she told me of how she related to Hannah quite deeply and as she watched, she wished for Hannah to live. I told her if she can sit here and wish so deeply for a fictional girl to live, imagine all the people who are wishing for her to live.

Imagine all the people rooting for you to live. Please, speak up, find the help you deserve and never, ever, blow your candle out. There are resources such as the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Imalive.org, Crisischat.org and the Crisis Text Line. As my favorite Youtuber Kati Morton says, “Recovery is a process, not perfection.” It is something we work at every single day. I promise you, you are not the first to feel like this. Others have made it through it and come out better and stronger on the other side — so will you. The next chapter of your story has so much to offer. Please, I beg you to read it.

It took me quite a bit to write this article, as there are so many reasons I am in love with the show. Just as there were so many reasons why Hannah ended her life, there are equally as many reasons why this show is important. I can not possibly list them all. “13 Reasons Why” is the most emotionally raw and accurate portrayal of mental health I have seen thus far. I truly believe every single person can take something away from this show — the least of which is we never know what is going on in the lives of others. We must all do our best to be kind. This is an important step in the right direction on the path toward breaking the ever present stigma surrounding mental health.

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.



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

It’s a complicated thing to explain — what it’s like to have suicidal thoughts, but not want to die. For some, it’s a constant weight of feeling like you don’t deserve to live. For others, it might be a persistent but passing thought. A fly that won’t leave you alone.

Whatever the extent of it, the fact that people can have suicidal thoughts when they have no active plans to kill themselves is something we need to talk about. There’s nothing shameful about experiencing suicidal thoughts, and a person should not have to reach a breaking point before they can reach out for support.

To understand more, we asked people in our mental health community to share what they wish they could tell others about having suicidal thoughts when they have no intent of dying by suicide.

Here’s what they shared with us:

1. “It’s like randomly imagining what life around you would be like if you didn’t exist anymore. It’s like having random daydreams about dying in different ways. It’s not always looking both ways when you cross the street, not because you want to die, but because you don’t not want to die… it’s having this numbing ache inside you don’t know how to mute.” 

2. “Sometimes my anxiety causes me to feel trapped and overwhelmed. Thoughts of my death (not necessarily suicide) are a fantasy of escape. And escape where you don’t feel guilty, scared or pressured anymore.” 

3. “I have intrusive thoughts about suicide, even when my moods are relatively stable. I sometimes have images and thoughts popping up. These thoughts feel obsessive some days. I am grateful I don’t actually feel like doing any such thing that would end my life.”

4. “I once told my therapist I never pictured myself as an old person. That I didn’t think I’d ever make it there. Some days I just want to disappear. To escape the voices in my head telling me how awful I am, how I’m such a burden to everyone, how fat I am, etc. The cacophony is enough to make you want to rip your brain out of your head.” 

5. “The best way I’ve found to describe it is that suicidal *thoughts* can be fleeting. In fact, I’ve met many people who have never been suicidal who have wondered what it might be like. The problem for those of us who have been suicidal is that the *thought* of suicide brings up all those old emotions, sort of like PTSD. Even writing this response has made my thoughts turn to — “Well, I *could* just go ahead and do it…” But right now, I’m not suicidal, and I actually am in a pretty good place with regard to my mental health. So why does this voice go on in the back of my mind? Because I’m sick, y’all.”

6. “Think of it like getting a cold. You can drink orange juice and take vitamins and take care of yourself as much as you possibly can, and you might be in the healthiest shape of your life. And then you start sneezing, and your nose starts running. You never know when or where it’s going to happen; it just does, and there’s often little you can do to prevent it. So you just keep moving on, accepting it’s a part of you or that it’s simply not something you can control. That’s all we can do.”

7. “It’s less about killing myself and more about ceasing to exist. I want the people around me to not be bothered by my incompetence, insecurities and the trouble I feel I cause them. Sometimes it’s just a call for momentary relief.”

8. “They’re fleeting but frequent thoughts that attack you even when you feel completely fine. Sorta like an annoying fly buzzing around you constantly.”

9. “I am so overwhelmed and stressed out by what seems like everything. The world is just crashing down on me. I just want the stress to be gone. My chest just aches like it’s getting crushed. My mind is like having 100+ internet tabs open and one of them has an ad that is playing music so you gotta rush to find it to make the ad stop, but all you find is more random tabs with no ad (if that makes any sense). My mind is all over the place, and all I want to happen is for it to stop. Freeze. Be calm. Don’t want to die. That’s too permanent. To be able to pause or disappear away from everything though is a nice thought.”

10. “I often describe it as being passively suicidal. I wake up in the morning and wish I hadn’t, I close my eyes at night hoping it’ll be the last time .. It’s not like I want to end my life, like when I’m actively suicidal, but I don’t want to live. It’s lonely and it’s scary and something that goes through my head every single day.”

11. “It’s overwhelming. You know you don’t want to kill yourself, but the thoughts just won’t leave your head. I battle this every single day of my life. I have everything to live for yet the thoughts don’t want to move from my brain. It’s like being trapped in a brain you’re unfamiliar with… it’s like walking into a room full of family and only seeing complete strangers.”

12. “It’s almost like this nagging feeling or voice. You’re out living life. The sun is shining, your favorite song is playing but something feels off. You suddenly get a brief flash of ‘What if’ and it passes so quickly you don’t really process it. Until the music stops. Then it comes again. And lingers. Kind of like when your phone keeps going off and distracting you. Until eventually you have to answer it. (Or in this case, dwell on the thought.)”

13. “Being angry with hope. Being frustrated with faith. Resenting the reasons to stay alive… Self-hate. Self-hate. Self-hate. People hate. People hate. People hate. Guilt. Guilt. Guilt. Futility, oh my god, the overwhelming futility. Knowing it’s not futile. Arguing with yourself over whether or not it is. Not wanting to die but not wanting to feel worthless any more. Not wanting to die but not wanting that tight aching physical pain in the heart/stomach/head any more. Not wanting to die but not wanting to be living in fear forever…. What if I get ill and die now because I’ve wished myself dead? (I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die, please don’t let me die!)”

14. “It’s like going into an art room full of beautiful paintings, and then the lights turn off and written in invisible ink everywhere are these dark thoughts… then as soon as the lights come back on you see just beautiful paintings — although you know hidden somewhere are these suicidal thoughts and you’re just waiting until they resurface.”

15. “Some of my worst points was the ‘other me’ in my head shouting at me, feeling like it was attacking my brain physically…  Another version of this would be like it is trying to slyly coax me into doing this things, like the snake in ‘The Jungle Book.'”

16. “It’s not really the thought, ‘I want to kill myself,’ but more, ‘I don’t care if I die.’ Situations that most people would have fear in don’t always bother me. Or I imagine things happening that would cause death. But these are just passive thoughts, they may always be there, but I am learning to fight them.”

17. “I have a lot of intrusive thoughts, regardless of how stable my mental health is. It’s like everything will be OK, and I’ll be happy and content or at the very least, I’ll be feeling relatively neutral, and all of a sudden my brain will say something like, ‘Just swerve into the concrete barrier,’ or, ‘You could jump off these stairs right now.’ In these moments, I don’t want to kill myself, but the thought of doing so is always there. It’s like a tiny switch in my brain — it isn’t triggered all the way so as to cause a suicidal crisis, but it’s just nudged a little bit so that it’s almost on.”

18. “Suicidal thoughts are a daily occurrence for me, even if I’m not totally low or really wanting to die… They’re passive thoughts, but they’re always there even when I’m having a good day.”

19. “It’s intrusive thoughts that make no sense to you, but they refuse to leave. It’s a feeling that sweeps across your mind like a fog. An evil inner self-voice that taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear on your darkest days. It’s pondering different ways and scenarios you could do it, but never actually planning it. Just because I don’t want to actually go through with killing myself doesn’t mean my mental health isn’t affected by these intrusive thoughts that insist I would be better off if I did. I know how much it would hurt those I love, and all I want is the thoughts of wanting to harm or end myself to be gone. When you struggle with mental illness, anxiety, depression etc., sometimes thoughts invade your mind without even wanting them.”

20. “It’s like being behind a one-way mirror. You can see the world around you going about their daily lives, but you aren’t present in it. You’re merely a spectator. And no one even notices you because all they see is their reflection. All they see (care about) is themselves and the world around them. They never see you, and you feel they don’t care about you. And then your mind begins to wonder. Is my existence significant? I’m already living like I don’t exist, so why should I continue living? It’s one of the most frustrating feelings because you want to be on the other side of the mirror. You want people to notice and to care. It’s this dull aching in your heart that never goes away and you just want it to stop.”

21. “One of my favorite quotes about this: ‘Depression is the inability to construct a future.’ That’s completely true. Even if you aren’t actively looking to end your life, you can’t imagine going on. Every day you feel like it’s too much and that you don’t belong, hoping that some outside force might just end it for you.” — Stacy T.

22. “For me, it’s like the annoying devil character on your shoulder… like you are fine but this dark annoying thing keeps whispering into your ear these awful thoughts. And sometimes it’s not thoughts, it’s just images. Like I will be just going about my day and I will get these random suicidal images in my head. Almost like someone mis-filed a photo in your daily slideshow.”

23. “It’s a spectrum. Suicidal thoughts aren’t always actively planning your death. Sometimes, it’s a random, uncontrollable thought that you’d rather not be alive. Sometimes it’s an impulse to do something self-destructive. Sometimes it’s ‘playing’ with the idea while telling yourself you’re not serious about it. ‘Suicidal thoughts’ encompasses a wide range of thoughts and ideas.”

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.

 

What It's Like to Have Passive Suicidal Thoughts


I’m writing this with tears in my eyes, my hands shaking. My heart is shattered.

One of the people I admire most in the world has lost her life to depression.

You may have heard of Project Semicolon, but if not I’ll explain it to you in short. Project Semicolon is a project whose main purpose is giving hope for those who live with mental illness, suicidal thoughts or struggle with self-harm. The project explains that the semicolon is used when a writer could end a sentence, but chooses not to. The sentence is your life and you are the writer.

Hundreds and thousands of people all over the world, including myself, have tattooed a semicolon to our body to remind ourselves that our story isn’t over yet.

The woman who popularized the Project Semicolon is Amy Bleuel, and last week she lost her life to depression.

If you look at Amy’s Facebook profile you will see a joyful, successful lady who hundreds of thousands people admire and support. But inside, there was more.

And in my eyes, her death shows just how hard living with depression really is. That even when you are really successful and so many people all around the globe look up to you, depression can still be there. And it swallows you up in to its dark, black world.

When I was suicidal, people kept reminding me how successful I am, how far I’ve come from where I once was, but I didn’t care. Because inside of me I was experiencing a strong pain. A pain that someone who has never experienced will never be able to imagine, a pain that words cannot describe. This pain was so strong I wanted nothing but to stop it.

Thanks to Amy, I wasn’t afraid to open up about my depression, tell the world what I’m going through. Just telling people what I’m going through already gave me the strength to carry on. And I know it’s like this for a lot of people.

To me, Amy will always be strong. She told the world about her illness and gave a chance to so many others to take off their masks and talk about their illness. She did so much about raising awareness around mental health, and thanks to her I’m not embarrassed to talk about my own illness, like I was for years beyond years.

I will miss you, Amy <3

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.


The mini series version of Jay Asher’s book, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” has come out on Netflix (“13 Reasons Why”). It has been long anticipated, as the best selling young adult novel has been a favorite among many since 2007. However, the story has never sat quite right with me.

For background, I am someone living with mental illness and am a suicide attempt survivor. Today, I am a mental health advocate and future clinician. I read “Thirteen Reasons Why” when I was around 14 years old, in the beginning of my worsening depression and suicidal thoughts. I didn’t really like it then or now.

I recognize this story is one that resonates with some or has provided comfort or solace. I know many people watching the show really enjoy it and are encouraging others to watch and read it as well. While I don’t want to discourage others from finding things that help them, I do want to shed light on the issues it contains.

1. It simplifies suicide and perpetuates the idea suicide has someone to blame.

We are all affected by what we do and what happens to us. And sometimes, what happens to us is unfair, hurtful or even severely traumatizing. I am not saying these things don’t matter, because they do. When faced with the things addressed in “13 Reasons Why” such as bullying, rumors and sexual assault, it absolutely affect our mental health. But to perpetuate the idea there is a straight, linear path to why a suicide happened by pointing fingers at peers, parents or another individual, is harmful. Suicide is a complex issue and it cannot be defined by placing the onus on someone else. Sometimes, suicide has no reason other than intense depression or another mental illness such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder. It is upsetting to see a suicide portrayed as the suicidal person wanting others to feel guilty, rather than focusing on the person’s emotions and thoughts.

2. It adds fuel to the fire of suicide myths, like “suicide is selfish.”

People who believe harmful myths about suicide can look to this movie and story to “prove” their point. The fact that Hannah, the girl who dies by suicide in the story, sends pre-recorded tapes detailing the reasons (both events and people’s actions) that led to her suicide is uncomfortable. And it should be. The moral of the story is we need to recognize how we treat people affects them in ways we don’t even know. That is true. But what is most uncomfortable is Hannah’s suicide is seen as a way to expose what people have done to her. It makes it seem as though she is a hero for calling out the harmful things that have been done to her. And while it is brave to confront bullying and stand up after an assault, it is harmful to be done posthumously, implying suicide was the only way to make her voice heard.

3. It devalues both suicide and bullying experiences.

We see over and over again the stories about bullying that lead to suicide, but how accurate is this? And what message does it send? Experiencing bullying is traumatic and each individual copes in their own way. As mental health advocate and speaker Aliçia Raimundo says, “Your bullying experience is valid even if you were never suicidal and your feelings of suicide are valid even if you were never bullied.” Bullying does not directly cause suicide. And many recent youth suicides have been met with advocating for anti-bullying campaigns, which reduces and simplifies suicide. It also continues the idea that the normal outcome for bullying is suicide — which is simply not true. This isn’t to say bullying does not affect mental health or does not have an influence on someone becoming suicidal. It is saying that bullying is a risk factor, but a risk factor is not a cause.

4. It disregards the guidelines on safe and responsible reporting on suicide.

We know Hannah dies by suicide. It is the premise of the story and revealed at the beginning, as the rest of the show depends on it. The show could have been effective and impactful without the graphic, detailed portrayal of Hannah’s suicide, which is a direct violation of research conducted by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and other suicide prevention organizations, when they found “risk of additional suicides increases when the story explicitly describes the suicide method, uses dramatic/graphic headlines or images and repeated/extensive coverage sensationalizes or glamorizes a death.”

5. It doesn’t address mental illness in adolescence.

Not all who die by suicide have mental illness, but a mental disorder and/or substance abuse is found in 90% of suicide deaths. And when it comes to adolescents, one in five have (or will have) a serious mental illness. With those statistics in mind, it’s no wonder suicide is the third leading cause of death among those 10 to 14 and the second among those 15 to 34 years old. Clearly, these are important issues and ones that need to be addressed. “13 Reasons Why” is one of the first and most popular mainstream media portrayals of suicide in adolescence and it doesn’t talk about mental illness at all. It is missing a crucial opportunity to discuss an issue affecting the lives of so many children and teenagers.

6. There is no example of successful help-seeking.

A theme throughout the story is silence. None of the teenagers talk to their parents, faculty, staff or anyone but each other about their feelings. As Hannah was contemplating suicide and preparing the tapes, she gave “one try” to ask for help. Having Hannah go to the counselor and him failing to grasp her mental state and fail to help her, is sending a message that help is unattainable. That there is such a thing as “too late” to be helped. After her suicide, her peers also don’t receive help. Several characters have an extremely hard time coping with the tapes, but when parents ask, the students deny it. I understand teenagers can be brooding and moody, we get that. What would be helpful to teenagers today is to show how to ask for help, how treatment and counseling is available — not that everyone just accepts “I’m fine” at face value and that’s the end of the conversation. I wish even one character had someone intervene to shine some light, to be an image of hope, that could help the narrative from being one of desperation and silence to one that encourages conversation and help-seeking. There needs to be an example of what to do, not just what not to do. When we present a failing system without the avenue for change, it does not help to prevent the very thing the show is about.

This is not to say the show and book are all bad. They get some things right, too. In particular, tackling rape culture and slut shaming was dealt with accurately. The scenes dealing with the assaults can be triggering, but it is not shown in the same graphic nature as Hannah’s suicide. The story acts as a warning and that moral of treating people well and being aware of how our words and actions affect others is a good one, I just think it gets muddled and lost at times. It’s stories like these that remind me of the work that needs to be done in the media to involve advocates, clinicians and people with lived experience to make sure we are presenting stories that need to be told in the most responsible and effective ways possible, along with representation of how to get help.

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 “13 Reasons Why” Facebook page.

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