‘13 Reasons Why Not’: Teens Participate in Anti-Suicide Program in Response to Netflix Series

In the wake of a student’s death, one high school is putting a positive spin to the recorded confessions seen on the show.
"13 Reasons Why"
"13 Reasons Why"
Beth Dubber/Netflix

Although “13 Reasons Why” has come under fire for what some claim as glorifying suicide and the graphic depiction of the act itself, something positive has come from the show.

According to the Oakland Press, Oxford High School in Michigan has started a program in which a student records a confession that is heard over the morning announcements that mimics the tapes that the character Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) made explaining 13 reasons (i.e. people) that drove her to suicide. The real-world twist though is that after the Oxford High students reveal the problems they’ve been struggling with, they instead thank someone who has given them support.

READ MORE: ’13 Reasons Why’ Will Get More Trigger Warnings Amidst Controversy

The school’s dean Pam Fine began the project in memory of Megan Abbott, a freshman who completed suicide four years ago.

“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,” said Fine. “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.”

Senior Riley Juntti was the first student whose message surprised students who were unaware of the project.

“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 everyday for two years,” Juntti said in her recording, which ended with this note of thanks. “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.”

Each day afterward, a different student’s message would play. The program has had an overwhelmingly positive response, not only lauding the students for their openness and bravery, but also from students who want to share their stories.

“13 Reasons Why” is currently streaming Season 1 on Netflix.

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