“You don’t know what goes on in anyone’s life but your own. And when you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re not messing with just that part. Unfortunately, you can’t be that precise and selective. When you mess with one part of a person’s life, you’re messing with their entire life. Everything. . . affects everything.”
Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why has been creating quite a stir recently, both on the negative and positive side of the worth of the show. But if we look at the quote from the book it was based on we can see why 13 Reasons opens up important issues for us all to talk about. Everything really does affect everything.
I have just finished watching it myself and felt deeply its impact. 13 Reasons Why is about the aftermath of the suicide of a teenage girl who records 13 sides of audio tapes. Each side is about a person and the reason why they contributed to her suicide. It is a well-made show, with compelling drama, and heart-wrenching scenes (yes, I did shed a few tears). And while I would definitely recommend caution before watching it, it also opens up the dark reality behind how the actions of people can really impact lives around us. There are lessons for us to learn about the depth of trauma that happens to our teenagers with the murky reality of everything from slut shaming to bro code. So much to talk about, but in the end I felt most compelled to share from my own (and I fully recognise limited perspective) 13 reasons why to NOT ever commit suicide:
1. You are loved.
You may not feel like it. You may feel like everyone would be better off without you. But I can assure you that you are loved. There are always people who love you, often in imperfect ways, but they still love you. In 13 Reasons Hannah had lots of people who cared for her – her parents, Clay, Tony. Hannah felt abandoned and unloved but it was far from the truth. But even if after you look around and still feel like there is no person left who loves you, wait for reason 13.
2. Don’t listen to comparisons.
Comparisons are toxic. Comparing butts, grades, athletic ability, anything is such a toxic activity. And it is so rife in the school years. Much fuel is thrown on that fire by social media – Facebook was initially formed as a ‘hot or not’ site after all. So don’t listen to them. Tune it out. Take a break from social media. And look to the incredible value in each and every human being – including you.
3. Bullies fade away.
Being bullied is so soul destroying. It can seem like there is no escape, and it will never end. But it does. Bullies fade away. I was bullied at school, but all these years later I need to think hard to remember who my bullies even were. Bullies fade away. So talk to someone and seek help now, but always remember that bullies do not last.
4. There is life beyond school.
When you are at school it seems like the whole world. If life at school is not going well, it seems like life is not going well. Well let me tell you that the soap opera that is your school does finish, and there is a whole world out there so much richer than your life at school. And if life at school is so bad that you want to end your own life, don’t do it – ditch school instead. There are other schools. And even if you don’t finish school there are lots of options out there for a full life. Your marks at school don’t define you so just push through, or get out and start fresh.
5. There is love beyond school.
So much of the angst in 13 Reasons is about romantic relationships. And this is true in schools everywhere. But let me tell you that romantic love at school rarely sticks. So many high school relationships are simply playing at love. For every set of high school sweethearts that get married there are hundreds of marriages that happen after school. So don’t place all your store in finding love at school. Chances are you will find a greater, more fulfilling love after you leave school.
6. There is always someone to talk to.
In 13 Reasons Hannah felt like she has no-one left to talk to. She thought all her friends had abandoned her. And as a last resort she talked to the school counsellor Mr Porter. But that too did not go well. She didn’t feel heard, and she felt like there was no one left to talk to. But there is always someone. Even if you feel like you have no friends or family to talk through stuff with there are heaps of counselling & mental health options. And if you don’t feel heard, or just don’t feel you click with one counsellor, then go to another. Keep going until you find the right person who can help you navigate the challenges you face in your life. Check out some of the many options at the end of this article.
7. The hurt does not end.
Any suicide does not stop the hurt, it only multiplies it. The suicide itself is very painful and ugly. But even after Hannah has ended her life the hurt goes on. It may seem like suicide is the only way to stop all the hurt, but all those people who actually do love you will carry the hurt on. They will hurt deeply and will carry it for the rest of their lives. Just look at the hurt that is carried by so many through the whole season of 13 Reasons. So many lives are hurt & changed forever by one person trying to end their hurt.
8. Mistakes don’t define you.
We all make mistakes. You do. Others do. And mistakes can really hurt. Especially when you make mistakes that hurt others. But your mistakes don’t define you. You may feel crushed under the weight of mistakes. Either your mistakes or the mistakes of others. But you are far more than the mistakes you make. And there is always hope for redemption beyond the mistakes you make. And true redemption from all our mistakes starts with Jesus.
9. The world is better with you in it.
You were meant to be here. You are not some cosmic accident. God made you and wanted you to be part of his world. You are a beloved part of his creation, not something to be cast away. So your life matters. Your life has true value and worth because the Lord of the universe wanted you to be here. So even in the hard times cling onto this fact, because you are more valuable than you can even imagine.
10. Lonely is not a life sentence.
We can all get lonely. God is relational and we are made in his image in that way. And when we don’t feel like we have meaningful relationships around us it can feel terribly lonely. But there are promises that we can rest on in that. Even when our prayers seem like they are stopping at the ceiling God is true to his word. He is always with us. He never leaves us or forsakes us. In fact one of the best ways He brings us out of loneliness is surrounding us by his people. A family of people transformed by God to reach out to the lonely and offer them a way home.
11. You can rise above your reputation.
When your reputation is damaged it is very hard to overcome it. And it hurts, even more, when that reputation is not deserved. Hannah got a bad rep in 13 Reasons and she never found a way to heal that reputation. However, I have met many people who have risen above their bad reputation and turned it around. And in many cases, this is because of Jesus. Jesus who gives people endless second chances. He gives a fresh start and a way to rise above a bad reputation.
12. There is freedom from shame.
We all have stories of shame. Shame that binds us. Shame that makes us turn away from others, rather than turn to them. Shame can be so destructive in our lives, and it feels like there is no escape. But there is freedom from shame. Even shame as deep as that of rape and abuse. Even shame that numbs us from wanting to feel anything ever again. Freedom from shame can come through the love of Jesus. Jesus sees you in all your shame, yet still loves you. And he died to take away your shame, and write a new story in your life. There is freedom from shame – and it is found in Jesus.
13. You are loved.
Even if you feel all the people around you show you no love, one thing I know for true is that there is a God who will always love you. I know this because I know his son. His son Jesus who loved you enough to die for you. He has done the dying so you don’t have to. And he wants you to come home to a loving relationship with him. He wants you to come home to a relationship with his people. An imperfect people who will love you despite everything you feel is weighing you down. God’s people are imperfect and will stuff it up and let you down at some stage, but they will do their best to love you. I know at our church we try our best to love everyone who God brings to our church. We do it imperfectly, but it is something we are called to and are committed to. And I know God’s people the world over will try to love as best they can. All because they were loved first by a God who is love.
There is so much more that I could say.
Each of these points could be a whole article in themselves. But for now I have kept it brief to show there are overwhelming reasons to not commit suicide. If any one of these points are true it is enough to turn away from ending your life. And each of these points shows that the quote at the beginning rings totally. Everything… affects everything. Everything affects everything in negative ways. But everything affects everything in positive ways too. Each of these reasons why not to commit suicide show us there is hope. There is love. A love that affects everything. A love that we can find imperfectly in those around us. But also a love that we can find perfectly in Jesus. There is a loving God who made you, loves you, and died to bring you home to him. That really affects everything like nothing else.
If you or anyone you know needs help here are just some of the many places you can go:
- Lifeline on 13 11 14
- Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
- Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
- Headspace on 1800 650 890
- MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
- Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
Written by: Chris Pine
Kids, Youth & Young Adults Director