Tag Archives: suicide

13 Reasons Why Adults Fail Young People in Season Two: 13 Reasons Why

Warning: Spoiler Alert!!!

Season Two of 13 Reasons Why is back on Netflix and whereas school districts are sending mass emails of the graphic nature of the show, most teens and adults are binging the entire season in shock and awe, drawing connections, and possibly building empathy for the people in their school and community. Based on the young adult novel by the same name, Season 2 goes beyond the book and looks at the characters more closely as a trial unfolds against the school district for their responsibility in Hannah Baker’s suicide.

Watching Season 2, the role of the teachers, parents, and adults stood out for their lack of presence and negative impact or role in the show. It is not until Episode 8 or 9 that there is a shift in Jessica and Clay’s families where parenting becomes the forefront of the series in honest and imperfect ways. At the same time, I found myself critical of the lack of presence of teachers and school support staff throughout the school scenes that seemed inauthentic and the failures among parents aloof to these teenagers in crisis and need. Here are thirteen critical failures from the adults in the show:

  1. Teachers are invisible or erased from the story. Walking down the hallways of the high school there are literally no teachers. There are only two teachers who have a role throughout the series – I will talk about the math teacher/coach separately. In schools today there are multiple security guards, cameras, and more presence in the hallways. Additionally, the mop left in the boys bathroom by a janitor in Episode 13 can cost someone his/her job.
  2. The principal is driven by outside money and ignorant about the rumors and activity happening on campus. He never takes an active role to interact with his students or staff until it’s too late. When the guidance counselor, Mr. Porter, gives the principal the files of students he has red flagged, the principal doesn’t even look at the files but leaves them on the counselor’s desk.
  3. The guidance counselor goes on a home visit and ends up in a physical altercation with the parent – really, parents and school faculty in physical altercations?
  4. The baseball coach walks into the locker room and announces to his athletes that he has synthetic urine for any of his players who need it for a drug test the following day.
  5. In Episode 12 the same baseball coach tells his players “I don’t know and I don’t want to know” about the polaroid pictures. He seems only focused on his championships and not wanting to address the violence, drug use, or the fact that the entire team is labelled rapists.
  6. Justin’s mother is a junkie a chooses her drug dealer boyfriend over her own son. Justin mom has failed him from a young age and this clearly impacts his actions.
  7. Austin and Clay’s parents are lied to regularly and the parents never question their son’s credibility or actions, despite their stories not measuring up or their bad behavior.
  8. Clay’s parents buy him a car after he yells at them and his bike is totaled. He puts a lock on his door and stays out late. They question his behavior and he is not truthful and yet, he still got a car.
  9. Zack’s mother is emotionless and cold and after her son confides in her that he is struggling she turns her back and walks away.
  10. Bryce’s parent are egotistical and stoic. The father never questions his son’s actions. When Bryce’s mother asks about Hannah he tells her a graphic play by play what he did to her in the hot tub. She smacks him across the face and he stands there unfazed. In fact, he threatens his mother and there are no repercussions.
  11. Hannah’s dad has moved in with another woman less than six months after his daughter’s death and seemingly moved on with his life.
  12. Clay’s parents get into a huge argument and his mother leaves for a week to “let off steam and work things out.”
  13. The school says nothing about the suicide and violence happening on campus because of the fear of copycat suicides.

There are a few scenes where the parents are supportive and helpful for their children. Specifically, Clay’s father and Jessica’s parents. After Clay testifies, he and his father share  Starbucks coffee and talk. Clay’s father mostly listens. Jessica’s father is truly supportive of his daughter and the scene where he tucks her into bed is memorable. Her father struggles between overprotecting his daughter and letting her grow. He has the most scenes throughout Season 2 finding a balance between trusting his daughter and being present in a positive and supportive way.

Austin’s parents are upsetting to watch because of how aloof they are to their son’s bullying, anger, and isolation. His fascination in guns from the beginning of the series clearly maps out the extent of violence we will see by the last episode. Once he pulls out his arsenal of weapons he hides in the basement with his parents clearly unaware, I was reminded of Sue Klebold, mother of 1999 Columbine High School Shooter, Eric Klebold’s book, A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy (2016) and TED Talk (see below). This is a fascinating read for any teacher or parent and sheds light on the teenage brain, depression, and school violence.

Before you quickly dismiss Thirteen Reasons Why, it is an imperative series for all educators and parents to see with teens. The show raises important topics of bullying, addiction, suicide, rape, violence, and empathy. At the very least, it helps initiate conversations about the stress, loneliness, and choices young people might be facing.

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For Evan: Speak Up, Speak Out, Know the Signs to Prevent Teenage Suicide

Disclaimer –  This article addresses the topic of teen suicide and includes some sensitive information.

Evan Hyman was the class president of his high school. He was a solid student with lots of friends. He started an initiative in elementary school called “Cupcakes for a Cause” to raise awareness and money for hospice care after his father had passed away from brain cancer. He liked to go hiking and was active in his Temple Youth Group.

But on January 31, 2016, Evan committed suicide. He left no note and no signs that he was putting this thought into action.

Over 1,000 people attended his funeral in shock, despair, awe, grief, that this sixteen year old took his own life.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined as reported by the Jason Foundation, a nonprofit organization for the awareness and prevention of youth suicide. The organization also reports that four of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs.

But what about the one who shows no clear warning signs? The one who was seemingly happy, gregarious, friendly, caring, family oriented and then hanged himself in his bedroom.

I recently read All the Bright Places, a young adult novel by Jennifer Niven (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2015) about two teens who develop a friendship over suicidal thoughts. Both characters are battling inner demons and throughout the story the warning signs were like bread crumbs dropped along the pages insinuating what is to come. Yet, in the book there were no adults, parents, siblings, friends, teachers who were keen enough to help these two teens. The book ends tragically.

In a twitter book chat with the author I asked Ms. Niven why she did not have anyone help these two teens when it was clear that they were struggling with suicidal thoughts from the beginning of the novel. Her response to me was she receives hundreds of tweets and letters from teenagers telling her that they do not have an adult who cares or they can turn to. I was shocked by her response. I thought how can that be possible.

And two weeks later the news that Evan committed suicide rocked my community. His mom found him. The fire department had to come to the house and remove the body. I thought it was an accident. I told everyone there had to be a sign. Or it was a mistake. Why would this seemingly smart, popular, and all around good kid do something like this? How could no one not notice anything. His friends were as dumbfounded as I was, maybe even more so compounded by heartbreak and mourning.

The Youth Suicide Prevention Program lists the following signs that may indicate that someone is thinking of suicide:

  • Talking or joking about suicide
  • Current talk of suicide or making a plan
  • Strong wish to die or a preoccupation with or romanticizing death
  • Writing stories or poems about death, dying, or suicide
  • Engaging in reckless behavior or having a lot of accidents resulting in injury
  • Saying things like, “I’d be better off dead,” “I wish I could disappear forever,” or “There’s no way out.”
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal
  • Increased alcohol and/or other drug use
  • Hinting at not being around in the future or saying good-bye
  • Seeking out pills, firearms, or other ways to kill themselves

So, if a friend or child or sibling or student mentions suicide or shows one (even many) of the warning signs take it seriously. Get help immediately. Do not leave the person alone.  At the same time, show the person you care by sharing your concerns and listening carefully to their feelings.

Maybe Evan’s suicide could have been prevented. Maybe there were signs that people missed or he hid his pain. We will never know. What we do know is the hole that he has left in so many by ending his life so unexpectedly is deep. Evan’s death has made me more aware and vocal about this “silent epidemic.”

For more information how to talk to a person with has suicidal thoughts and shows signs of depression and despair check out the resources below:

Helpguide.org — This non profit organization offers extensive information about ways to talk to a person about suicide or suicidal person as well additional preventative tips

The Jason Foundation — This organization is dedicated to the prevention of youth suicide through educational programs, an app, and informative information on its website.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline — 1 (800) 273-8255

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call this number immediately.

A few Young Adult Novels That Address Suicide:

411mjmptsel-_sy344_bo1204203200_13 Reasons by by Jay Asher

41r-skjj61lLooking for Alaska by John Green

18460392All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

the-pact-06-lgThe Pact by Jodi Picoult
18075234Challenger Deep by Neil Shusterman

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