Sunday nights at home when I was a child, was “family television night.” We would watch Walt Disney. Other nights we might also sit and watch television together, Brady Bunch, The Nanny And The Professor, The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. But today, with families going in fifty different directions, children now have much different interests, and parents are often exhausted from a full work day, and completing house work that needed to be done for the day. Technology makes it all the more convenient for all the different schedules. But whereas with family night, as with The Courtship of Eddie’s Father or the Brady Bunch, if there were issues or questions that we had as children, our parents were there to answer and explain. Today, other than perhaps attending a movie with each other, the family most likely never sees anything together. And that can be problematic.
There is a video series on Netflix, called “13 Reasons Why.” Simply, it is about a teenage girls, who sadly commits suicide. She leaves 13 recordings for individuals she blames for her making such an unfortunate decision. Just as our society determined that cigarette smoking had been glorified in television and movies with the frequency and situations involving smoking, which was believed to contribute to enticing youth to start smoking, the same concern is now emerging with this particular series. And there are legitimate concerns.
Before I go any further, I need to state my qualifications and interests in this subject. I spent more than a decade dealing with youth and angst. I was a psychology major in college. The very first topic I wrote a paper on, was teenage suicide. And now, I have two daughters of similar age. I will spare all the statistics, the facts, and the statements always echoed by families “I had no idea.”
13 reasons why this child chose to take her life in the series, was 13 too many. Even after the first reason, the issue should have been dealt with then. But then again, that is where the denial begins. And as it goes through reason after reason, unless those dots are connected, even the 8th or 12th reason is still considered not a credible concern as if it were the first reason.
But the girl decides to kill herself because she has finally had enough. And this is where the message needs to be stated strongly, suicide is never the answer. Which I do feel, this has not been made clear enough. But the death of this child, has now been viewed by millions who now see as long as they can justify their own deaths, it does not matter how many reasons that they have.
Over my lifetime, I have discussed teen suicide with many youth, and have had to do so recently with my daughters. Sadly, I have too many examples of when adults did not “know” anything was wrong, when clearly adults did know, they just chose to ignore issues, or blow them off as just a phase.
Last week, a student from my daughter’s school, was on a railroad track, at 5am, and was struck and killed by an oncoming train. My daughters did not personally know her. But as discussion occurs, and it already has among the students, since the adults have declined to deal with this publicly, the children are now dealing with this on their own. It is a nice gesture for the school to make counselors available for the kids. But that only works if the children go to them. Sometimes adults need to be proactive, and for now, adults in position to help, are choosing not to.
Of course there will be fear of other children who may “copy cat”. And then of course, extra attention may be paid to the series “13 Reasons Why”.
I am not objecting to this series at all. Quite the contrary. I am saying that if your child is watching it, this is an important opportunity for parents to help children understand the permanent consequences of such an avoidable choice.