So Thirteen Reasons Why is a Netflix series based on the book of the same name by Jay Asher. The official synopsis is below:
Clay Jensen, a shy high school student, returns home from school one day to find that he has received a mysterious package in the mail. It contains seven double-sided cassette tapes used by Hannah Baker, a classmate who has recently committed suicide. Each tape details a reason that she killed herself.
I guess that's a bit of a depressing scene-setter. But when dealing with issues like these, how can you not feel depressed?
Does that mean we should ignore these things and pretend they don't happen?
Of course not.
Trust me, pretending does you no good.
Initially what drew me into watching the series was simple curiosity. The synopsis does hold a certain measure of shock factor and for me sounded like it had potential to be a good and thought-provoking story. That it has certainly turned out to be. I haven't finished the series yet as I'm not much of a binge-watcher and rarely have the time to be, but so far I am enjoying it (sad though it may be). I started it a few weeks ago, shortly before a camp friend of mine committed suicide.
I was not very close to him, the camp staff all have a friendly relationship with each other but are not all necessarily best friends. There are some bonds between certain sets of individuals that are far stronger than others. I call him my friend anyway though, he was certainly far more than an acquaintance and someone I had known my entire life through the local church and camp both.
His name was Andrew. He was a couple years older than me. His camp name was Beaker, like the Muppets character because that's who he resembled. Whenever he was in charge of playing music in the morning he chose the Car Wash song from Shark Tale and could be seen swaying to the beat in the middle of the yard. He hated having one kind of food touch another kind and was exceedingly picky about it - he hated shepherd's pie because of that. He enjoyed mowing the grass and could often be seen puttering about on the lawn-mower in the playing field. He would refer to people as "Turkey" and liked to play guitar. He worked for hours to put all the camp songs onto PowerPoint slides. He was incredibly funny, incredibly well-liked/loved. You would never have suspected so much hurt was going on underneath it all.
Hearing that Andrew had passed on was a shock. Hearing that he had taken his own life was terrible. I have not dealt with much death in my personal life (which I am very thankful for), and all of this hit me quite hard.
Of course the typical questions run through one's mind, all coming down to one in particular: Is there something I could have done to change this?
Depression is a terrible thing and I wish it was treated more as an illness and less as an attitude. I myself have struggled with some depression and negative thoughts including suicide, though I've never acted on such things. I know how prevalent the lies of one's mind can be, and how nearly impossible it is to escape them.
Andrew was a Christian, a very solid Christian. I firmly believe I will see him in Heaven one day, which makes all of this much easier to bear. But it doesn't make it any less sad. He left a sister behind, parents and grandparents who loved him. They will never be the same. Camp will never be the same. A light has gone out of the world.
Thirteen Reasons Why is a secular show and (so far) there has been no mention of anything spiritual or any sort of afterlife. Perhaps that is what gives the show its lingering sadness. It does a terrific job pushing you towards hard questions. This in particular is one of the show's most powerful scenes, there is a touch of strong language for those of you that are disinclined to listen, but the strength of the character, his pain and anger, pushes through:
For me, the question of "Why" still persists in these weeks following Andrew's death. But now it is less "what could I have done" and more "what should we all be doing now?"
Why does the church never talk about things like depression or suicide? Why is that constantly swept under the rug, hung up in darkness like a skeleton in the closet? Why are these real, hard issues overlooked for things that are ultimately so much less important.
There are people desperately in need of help, of our care and concern, what are we so busy doing that we can't help them? What are we doing to drive them further away? Why are we all so so bad at taking care of others?
I can't really answer these questions, they're just there. I needed to put them down. I know it's a hard subject to tackle and I don't expect anyone to come along and pull it apart for me. I just think we shouldn't be afraid to look it in the face, to hold out open arms to those who are struggling.
My prayer is that, whether or not I am ever made aware, I can be a factor (great or small) in helping someone overcome the darkness of depression and suicide, if I can help hold them back from a terrible choice - in whatever possible way. To be for others what I was not for Andrew, that is my hope.