By now, you've probably heard speculation and concern from many parents that the Netflix show 13 Reasons Why glamorizes teen suicide. In the series, Hannah Baker takes her own life after sending out 13 tapes to peers explaining why they were one of the reasons behind her gruesome decision.
But one high school in is putting a positive spin on the show, and calling the project "13 reasons why not." Oxford High School in Oxford, MI has encouraged its students to create tapes for friends who have been a reason they want to live.
Sadly, as Pop Sugar reports, Oxford students are no strangers to the devastating aftermath of teen suicide. One student, 15-year-old freshman Megan Abbott, took her own life in 2013. Her death is what actually prompted dean Pam Fine to launch the "13 reasons why not" concept.
Fine told The Oakland Press, "I watched the series. I thought it accurately depicted the problems that teenagers in high school are facing now. But it was incredibly troubling to me that suicide was portrayed as being, almost, inevitable, like she had no other option." She added, "The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show.... Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope. Our message is that there are no 13 reasons why. Suicide is not an option."
To drive home this important message, students have recorded tapes revealing a problem in their lives, and then thanking a classmate who helped them. A new tape will play for the entire student body during the morning announcements for 13 days.
This past Monday, senior Riley Juntti's recording kicked things off. "Worthless. Self-centered. No morals. Easy. Grimy. Cake face. You would be better off dead. That's just the start of what you would label me as every day for two years," she bravely shared. Then added, "This tape is for you, Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share, and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I can not repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not."
Instead of being bullied for opening up, according to The Oakland Press, students quickly rallied behind Juntti on social media. And even if some kids teased her, she said, "Standing up for what is right has always been more important to me than my peers' approval, and this project wasn't an exception."
Megan's mom Amy Hafeli supports the project, saying, "I thought it was a wonderful idea. It brought a positive spin on something so negative.... I'm proud of the school for getting involved and for putting that message out there—not just when it happens, but being proactive about it. Because, once it happens, what can you do? You can't bring the kid back."
Megan's sister Morgan, who is now a junior at the school, added, "I think if Megan had something like this going on in school when she was there, we would have had more time with her."
The Alliance of Coalitions For Healthy Communities also created a poster around the idea of "13 reasons why not," available for all Oxford students, and posted online to Facebook.
On a personal note, a girl in my freshman-year class killed herself when she was just 14 years old. I remember how shocked and confused I felt when I looked at her empty desk that day, when the horrible news broke. I still think of her sometimes, and how much she has missed out on since then. I am now 38 years old, a mom, a wife, a writer.... If only she'd gotten the help she needed to see how much she had to live for. So I applaud this high school for talking openly about something that isn't often discussed without shame. Here's hoping more schools get on board!
Melissa Willets is a writer/blogger and soon-to-be mom-of-four. Find her on Facebook where she chronicles her life momming under the influence. Of yoga.