I am writing you today to address a topic of conversation that seems to be buzzing around our youth group at the moment. It’s a trend that has surfaced and become all the rave among our kids and something we felt needed to be brought to your attention. As some of you may have already heard, there is a new Netflix show that has recently come out swinging called “13 Reasons Why.” It is a 13-episode saga of a young high school teen who commits suicide. Before she dies, she creates 13 cassette tapes, each one containing the account of someone at her school that somehow hurt her, ultimately leading to her making the choice to take her life. It is extremely dramatic, graphic, heavy and depressing. Now many of you may have already heard about it, or maybe even seen it, and we are not by any means writing this letter to tell you that your kids should not watch it; that is a choice that is for you, their parent. But, we did feel it necessary to bring to your attention in order to make you aware of some things we feel and have seen.
Coming from someone who has actually seen the show, my heart was very heavy and burdened once I finished. It paints suicide in a way that you could argue almost glorifies it, making it seem like the next cool thing. I know it sounds crazy that self harm, especially to that extreme, can be a fad but you would be surprised what our youth will do these days in order to grab the attention of others. It graphically deals with the issue of rape, not just alluding to it, but actually showing it. It heavily deals with drugs, alcoholism, abuse, homosexuality, violence and vividly and graphically shows her act of suicide. The overall intent of this show, as stated by the directors, was to make kids aware of the severity of how they treat others, that they do not know what others are going through and should never treat someone with disrespect because you never know what people are dealing with on the inside. While the message is powerful and something I agree our kids need to hear, the way it is portrayed in this show is far different from what I think the producer desired. Here at JH78 we have already had multiple students in the last 2 or 3 weeks come forward struggling with the issue of suicide and suicidal thoughts. We are by no means trying to diminish those thoughts and feelings and are taking every precautionary action we can towards getting those students help, but we wonder how much of it is due to this show. How much is this show putting thoughts into their head that weren’t there before, or making them feel validated by the actions taken in each episode? I guess we will never know for sure, but we as a staff thought that it was something too big not to share with you, the parents of all these kids we love so dearly.
Like I said in the beginning, we are not telling you that your kids cannot watch the show or that you should ban it from your home. It’s your decision. Some of you may just think it’s a new show they are watching on Netflix that all their friends are watching, not realizing the things they are being exposed to, the thoughts that might be implanted in their heads or the feelings that could be surfacing inside them. Suicide is a huge deal and something our kids constantly have to hear about, think about and some, even deal with. This show has some good messages and would be a great gateway for conversation with you and your child, should you take the time to watch it together or watch it on your own and open the dialogue; maybe asking what their thoughts are on suicide, why they think it’s something people think about, have they ever thought about it, etc. We have attached a few articles of some other youth pastors around the world who have watched and wrote on it if you are looking for further information. Our hope is not to discourage or to put fear in your heart, but merely to show you something we as your child’s youth pastors have had a different view of and something we thought was important enough to bring to your attention. If you have any further questions or would love to talk to one of our staff about suicide, please feel free to email Pastor Travis Sybert. Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope it was helpful.
8th Grade Girls Director