13 Reasons why (not)
Have you ever felt like you just didn’t want to live anymore?
I have, and I know a couple of people who have felt the same. But I have never felt like ending my life. I had a friend who chose to do just that. It’s been nearly 5 years, but those memories hardly ever fade. So, when I heard about the Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, I was actually happy that people in the media industry have chosen to talk about such a pressing issue — Suicide.
When I received a call on October 7th at 7:15 AM telling me that my friend had died, I was shocked and the tears didn’t stop flowing for a while. We reached the hospital not long after, only to hear that he chose this. Seeing his body in the morgue made it much more harder for us to get over. And then we saw it, the rope marks around his neck. He had decided to end his life early that morning. Why? We haven’t the faintest clue. For weeks after, we were disturbed — going to college was a challenge, paying attention in class was difficult — we spent a long time thinking about what he chose to do. How did he have the courage to do that? It can’t have been easy. I was afraid to be alone for sometime and all of us needed to talk to each other about what was happening. We were reflecting on all the things he talked to us to figure out if we missed something important. True enough, there were signs. He talked about suicide, he was particularly interested in understanding the pathology of hanging, he even once mentioned to me something like, “I have now seen everything”, a week before he died. This made us feel all the more worse about his decision. What was it, that he couldn’t handle, that lead him to take such a drastic step? Why didn’t he say something more?
There’s something we should know about those who are contemplating suicide. One doesn’t have to be clinically depressed to commit suicide. My friend had no signs of depression, in fact, he was one of the funniest people I knew. But there was something else that was troubling him. And we had no idea about it. I found this strikingly similar to 13 Reasons why. Hannah Baker was going through something as well, but her behavior/feelings weren’t overt for anyone to notice. So, is anyone to blame for this? My friend did not leave behind any information telling us why he chose to end his life, so we don’t know his reasons. But Hannah Baker left behind 13 reasons why she chose to end her life.
Even though my friend left no note, no tapes, no video — my friends and I did not feel any less guilty that we couldn’t save him or be there for him. We never understood why he didn’t choose to talk to us instead. But it changed our lives. Powerfully. We became so much more aware of people’s feelings, we wanted to be there for each other just so we know we have somebody to talk to should we need it. We didn’t need our friend to give us reasons to be empathetic; what he did was most powerful reason.
So, when Hannah Baker left her tapes for her classmates, I was shocked to hear the extent to which she psychologically troubled her classmates. If I had to hear a tape sent to me by my friend blaming me for his death, I wouldn’t have been able to handle the guilt. Age is such a key factor in this. Teenagers are likely to be more emotionally charged than any other age group, which is why the highest rate of suicide is among late teens and young adults. I was saddened by how the directors/producers of the show decided to share such a powerful message. Imagine the consequences this show has to all those people who are suicidal, imagine the psychological trauma to all those who have experienced the loss of a loved one to suicide. We need awareness on suicide 100%, however, we need to be cautious about how we share this message.
I do believe that we need to be a lot more sensitive and kinder to people around us, but I strongly believe this message should be universally shared at all age groups. Why only high school? What about the society who drills in certain thoughts and beliefs into our minds at every stage in our lives? We need to understand the root cause of suicide and not just eliminate the symptoms. I miss my friend everyday, and he has had a powerful influence on the person I am today. He has helped me become a lot more observant of people around me and sensitive to how I may impact their lives. I think this was one message that came out well through the series, but it wasn’t enough.
More importantly, we need to model the behavior we want to see. We need to show people how to care or be sensitive, rather than show them what not to do. I believe each of us as individuals have the potential to impact every single person we meet in a positive and empathetic manner which could one day lead to a compassionate and loving world.
Some important pointers on suicide —
- Most people who kill themselves give definite warnings of their intentions
- Suicidal people often give indications of their thoughts by words/actions by saying statements like — “I want out”, “I have seen everything now”, “If I jump of the third floor, do you think I’ll die?”
- Suicidal people talk about death more often
- They tie up loose ends, put their affairs in order
There are several agencies and mental health professionals you can reach out to for any help/guidance/volunteering.
In India (chennai), Sneha India is a suicide prevention organization that works to help create awareness among people on suicide as well as a suicide helpline. They are open on all days of the week, one can drop by anytime between 8 am and 10 pm for a visit or call their phone lines at any time.
I hope we can work together to create a safe and empathetic environment for all of us. Please feel free to share and comment on any other helpline or agency that could be contacted around the world.
Miss you, A.