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To the Teen Who Relates to Hannah Baker

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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.

They may tell you to “get over it.” Some may say it’s a just a part of growing up — of finding yourself. Maybe they say you are being “too sensitive” and that everyone experiences what you are going through at your age. They might listen to you with their head down and their hand scrolling through the latest feed on Facebook. They may listen, but they don’t hear.

They may tell you that you should be thankful for what you have in your life. They may say you have a roof over your head, friends and get good grades. They may say everyone feels out of place sometimes, and it’s “just a phase.” They preach that it’ll get better, and that everyone “gets sad” sometimes. They may say what other people think of you doesn’t matter. They say a lot of things. A lot of things that sometimes just reaffirms that they don’t get it at all. They may listen, but they don’t hear.

Because if they really heard you, they’d hear despair, and they’d hear pain. They’d hear the need to feel understood and to belong in a world where belonging seems impossible — where belonging is the one thing you want but what feels like the last thing that is attainable. They’d hear a cry for help, not someone who is just looking for attention. They’d hear someone who had a hell of a lot of courage to explain how they were feeling, only to be shot down and told what they are experiencing everyone else experiences. Sure, they may listen, but they don’t hear.

To the teen who feels unheard and unloved, unwanted and unseen, like an outcast disposable to the next rumor floating around their class: I hear you. To the teen wondering if anyone notices you walking down the hallways with your head down and earphones in so you can drown out the sounds of their mocking voices and their demeaning looks: I see you.

Netflix’s series “13 Reasons Why” has become a conversational piece, to say the least. If you haven’t seen it, I can bet you’ve heard of it. Some say Hannah Baker was selfish. Some say she wasn’t thinking of anyone but herself. Some say she didn’t ask for help, and some don’t agree with the ways she did. Some say Hannah Baker wasn’t depressed or wasn’t bullied. Some say that she did reach out for help and didn’t get it. However, no matter what the stance is on how the series was portrayed and whether or not Hannah Baker was right or wrong, there are a few things I believe you should know:

1. Depression is real.

No matter what anyone tells you, depression isn’t something you make up. Because who would make that up? Who wants to feel like depression makes you feel? If you are are experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts, tell someone who you know is “on your team.” As in, tell someone who will hear your story, not dismiss it and will help you or help you find help. This could be a teacher, counselor, coach, a parent, a church support, etc. Seeing a therapist or counselor can help you learn skills to cope, boundaries to set and ways to assertively communicate yourself when in the face of a bully. This person is trained to help you through the depression and will walk alongside of you during it so you are not alone. If you feel like there is no one you can turn to and are having extreme depressive or suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255 or go online to the here.

2. Bullying is never OK.

Hannah Baker was bullied. Whether someone posts a passive aggressive Facebook post about you, posts a picture meant for someone privately all over the internet, grabs your butt in the middle of the school hallway, saying “it’s just a joke,” bullying is something that can make you feel even more alone, isolated and like you have no one to trust.

The phrase, “words can never hurt me” doesn’t always provide comfort when you are being made fun of, mocked and ridiculed. Words can hurt. That doesn’t mean you are weak or that you are “too sensitive.” Being told that you are “too sensitive” or “weak” is not helpful in these situations. Confiding your feelings in someone like mentioned above — someone who you know you can trust and will come alongside you and help you cope — is necessary to get through the hard times.

Yes, Hannah Baker was bullied. She may have dealt with it the only way she knew how. So, please hear me when I tell you this: there are other ways. Suicide is not the only way out of depression or bullying or healing from trauma. There are other ways.

3. This won’t last forever.

This part of your life is only just a part, and this part will end. High school is small. The world is big. I know it may not seem like it right now because friendships and finding out who you are may be some of the most important things to you right now, but those people who are doing things to make you feel small are going to be the people who feel small years from now.

Here, in this moment, I want you to know you have a choice. You can choose to talk to someone. You can choose to get help with a therapist or a counselor at school to help you learn how to cope, how to get through these difficult parts in your life because believe me, this won’t be the last difficult time in your life.

If you take anything from this, know I hear you. I know what you may be thinking: it’s easy for you to say for someone who isn’t in the midst of it and who isn’t living it daily. But if you can, trust me. It’s important to remember through this that you can’t control how other people respond to your pain. Some will be helpful. Some will not. Some may laugh in your face. Some may cry. Some may hug you and be the best support, ever. No matter who you get when you talk, keep going. Keep going until you find the one who supports you. Just because one person doesn’t get it, does not mean someone else isn’t going through or hasn’t gone through something similar to you. There are people out there who get it.

You may not have chosen what has happened to you, but you can choose what to do with it. Remember, high school is just a part of your life.  It’s not the entire thing, and there is an ending to high school. When you keep that in mind, it makes it a little more bearable.

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 Netflix YouTube channel.

Originally published: June 7, 2017
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