13 Reasons to Live

It’s week 2 of Mental Health Month, and we’re running a series of blogs about the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why. To reiterate, if you have not seen the trending Netflix series, please note: 13 Reasons Why is a massively triggering show, especially for those who are struggling. Please do not watch this show unless you are at a safe and stable place in your life, as the images and themes depicted are graphic. Several of our volunteers are still processing the show because of the weight of the material. If there is any doubt about your personal ability to watch the show, don’t do it.

As fair warning, the following article contains spoilers.

Last week I wrote about the 13 real reasons why someone attempts suicide. This week, I felt it necessary to bring some positivity into our messaging. So here are 13 reasons to stay alive.

Reason #1: You are Loved

This is so important that I felt I needed to make it first. You are loved. No, really, you are. Even if you don’t believe it. I promise you.

One thing that I noted throughout 13 Reasons Why was how much love Hannah had in her life. Her parents clearly adored her. We all knew Clay loved her from the moment he saw her. She even meant something to the friends that she gained and lost throughout her battles. The problem was not that she wasn’t valued, the problem is she didn’t know she was valued.

So here we are to tell you. You are loved. Like Hannah Baker, we promise there are people in your life who care about you more than you know. Maybe it’s your parents, or a teacher, or a friend, or a secret admirer, or an internet friend, or a coworker. You may not feel loved, but please know that you are. You have worth and value regardless of whether or not you feel it.

Reason #2: You are strong enough to get through this

Think about it. Up until this point, you have survived 100% of the things that life has thrown at you. Even in those days where you felt like you had barely enough energy to make it through one more hour, you survived. You have a death-less streak happening right now. In the midst of our battles, it can feel like things will never change or never end. We can feel like we’ve finally hit the point of no return. The good news is that yes, you are strong enough to make it.

Hannah Baker could have made it. She could have continued living. Although the trauma that happened to her can seem unbearable, she had many people to support her and provide her with resources to lessen the burden. Her parents, teachers, friends, and even Mr. Porter would have helped her. She was a teenager for goodness sake – I desperately wish she would have just googled suicide prevention resources at least once during the show.

Reason #3: Suicide is painful

I have mixed feelings about the on-screen suicide of Hannah. The reason why the directors chose to show the death is to dispel the myth that suicide is a pleasant “drifting off to sleep” experience. They wanted it to be hard to watch to open the reality of how ugly suicide is.

Suicide is painful. Regardless of what method someone considers, it is going to hurt. The body naturally fights to survive and it is an extremely unpleasant experience. More than that, my heart broke into a thousand pieces watching Hannah’s parents find her. The outer pain of suicide takes its toll on others as it’s passed on to friends and family. I know that this something that scars and traumatizes someone for life.

Suicide is ugly. It’s messy. It’s traumatizing. It’s terrible.

Reason #4: Your choices are your own

Hannah Baker attempted to blame 13 individuals for her suicide. While we can clearly say that the circumstances and people impacted Hannah’s mental health, the truth is that Hannah was the only person responsible for her death. As much as we would love to blame the others, as much as we’d love to see justice done to the people who hurt her, we have to accept this hard truth.

No one is forced to take their life. I am not trying to minimize the pain of Hannah or anyone else who has ever considered suicide. I know how it feels to feel so hopeless and in so much pain. But even in the midst of this great pain, only the person who attempts suicide can be held accountable for that attempt.

Reason #5: Things really do get better

I know this is a cliché. But please hear me out: things really do get better. They do! Whenever I present for Please Live in schools, I always tell students to just ignore it when someone says “these are the best days of your life.” You could not pay me enough money to be a teenager again. I hated it! But once I graduated high school it was like my world opened up before me.

There will be a day where you can live the life you want. You can decorate your space however you want, eat what you want, make your own decisions about your life without the pressure or expectation of parents and teachers. This freedom is amazing and definitely worth experiencing. Things do get better.

With treatment, whatever emotional turmoil you are experiencing does get better. Medicine does work. Therapy does work. Sometimes it takes a little longer than we’d like, but it does get better. I promise.

Reason #6: There is help available

In the last episode, we see that Hannah decided to reach out to Mr. Porter in an attempt to get help. Unfortunately, the situation was not handled the best way, and Hannah left feeling hopeless and determined to resume her plan (see our last post about her “all or nothing” thinking).

This scene downplays the amount of help out there. If your school counselor is not helpful, try someone else. Reach out to your parents or a trusted family member, talk to your doctor, or see a counselor. There is a reason why therapy and psychiatric medication exists; because they work!

Reason #7: You have worth and value

I remember in the depths of my depression believing that I would never make a mark on this world. I believed that if I wasn’t around anymore, no one would even notice.

Today, I know that’s not true. Each human being, simply by virtue of being alive, has worth and value. The amount of lives you touch is far greater than you realize. People will notice, and as I wrote in reason #3, their lives will be colored with pain without you.

Reason #8: There’s a lot of good in the world

The world is full of amazing things. When I’m in a dark place, I love to re-read this beautiful scene from Lord of the Rings:

Frodo : I can’t do this, Sam.

Sam : I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here, But we are. It’s like in the great stories Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo : What are we holding on to, Sam?

Sam : That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo. And it’s worth fighting for.

Some awesome things to consider: sleeping in, kittens, a good cup of coffee, stepping on a crunchy leaf, playing a brand new videogame, ice cream, having a good hair day, long hot showers, candles, warm fuzzy socks, getting lost in a good book, having deep conversations, learning something new, making someone smile, puppies, and stargazing – just to name a few.

Reason #9: You have no idea what the future holds

When I was 14, I was contemplating suicide. By the time I was 24, just ten years later, I had founded my own suicide prevention nonprofit, I had been married for about 4 years to the best man I could ever ask for, I was living on my own, out of college, and so happy. So much happier than I ever imagined. If you would have told me at 14 that just one year later I would meet my future husband, I wouldn’t have believed it.

The future is so unknown and so mysterious. Don’t give up. You have no idea what’s right around the corner.

Reason #10: You still have good days

Even in the midst of depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, good days still come. It’s still possible to laugh or to enjoy a good movie or listen to a catchy song. Sure, your soul inside may still be heavy and hurt, but there’s still good days to be had. There’s still good out there. Hold onto it during the bad days, savor the small bits of beauty to get you through the darkness.

Reason #11: Prove them wrong

Spite is sometimes a powerful motivator. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you turn the pain you’re experiencing into the will to prove them all wrong. Who are they? Whoever you need them to be. Bullies, parents, ex-friends, teachers, the voices in your head telling you that nothing will ever get better. Prove them wrong.

Will it be easy? No. Will it take time? Yes, absolutely. Will you need help? Yeah, probably. But even still, you can do it. You can do it. Stay, fight, live.

Reason #12: Struggles make you stronger

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right? I actually hate that phrase, it’s so cliché that it has lost its meaning. However, all clichés have some truth. All the stuff we deal with hurts in the moment, but we heal and scab over and become tougher. The bad things that have happened to you have helped to shape who you are, for better or worse.

Someday you will be able to look back on your experiences and see how far you’ve come and how much you’ve grown. Someday this won’t hurt as much as it does now.

Reason #13: It is possible to love your life more than you ever thought you could

Finally, life is so lovable. It is. It is not the dark and dreary heading-to-hell-in-a-handbasket wasteland that your illness or experiences attempts to convince you of. Life can be fun and bright, full of meaning and wonder. As I said earlier, I never thought I would love my life as much as I do today, yet here I am.

As someone who has been there, please know that it is possible to overcome. It’s possible to get better, to be happy, and to enjoy being alive. I did it, and you can do it too.

If you’re hurting in any way, please reach out for help:

Call 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or 1-800-SUICIDE for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Send a text to 741-741 for the National Crisis Text Line
Chat online at www.ImAlive.org or www.CrisisChat.org
Or talk to any trusted adult; a parent, teacher, counselor, or local support group

Click here to access Talking Points for 13 Reasons Why

13 Reasons Why: What Viewers Should Consider

Church discussion guide for 13 Reasons Why