Everything started right before the 2017 summer vacation. The television series Thirteen Reasons Why, Season 1(i) had been released months before, and it had become a big success among teens. Most of the middle school students had watched the series or had plans to watch it soon.
The show’s storyline is about a seventeen year old student who committed suicide and left an enigmatic box with seven cassette tapes recorded by her. In those tapes, she details the 13 reasons for her suicide. She explains that every person who receives the tapes (friends and foes), has something to do with her suicide. As simple as that.
This show was the conversation topic en vogue through the whole school. It raised my curiosity. I decided to read the book first, it was really catchy. Then I watched the whole series (13 episodes, fifty minutes each!). I ended up with a headache! Finally I read some reviews about the show. One reviewer said, “13 Reasons Why may certainly open up doors to discuss these heavy, important issues, but its message, and subsequent effect on the most vulnerable members of its target audience, is not a safe one.” One more stated that, “13 Reasons Why is problematic, troubling, and imprudent, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t an important conversation that has to be had.”
After gathering all this information, I had a solid opinion about the show, and I was finally ready to talk about it with the students in a more confident way. After all, my students were just teenagers, and I didn’t want them to see suicide as something normal in the world.
Some students opened the Bible to talk about suicide, (it seems that they had done some research too). One student pointed out stories from the Bible that mention suicide. King Saul chose to end his life because he was defeated by the enemy and he didn’t want to face abuse by his captors. His armor-bearer took his own life as well when he saw Saul was dead.
“Samson is another man who killed himself,” a girl said. Due to his desire for revenge, he didn’t care if he died as long as he took the Philistines with him, the enemy of his people.
“I know another king who killed himself,” said a young man. “It was the king Abimelech. He was a cruel, evil, and ruthless king who killed 69 of 70 of his half-brothers. But he took his own life after a woman dropped a millstone on his head, so that no one could “say a woman killed him.”
“There’s a very well-known suicide story account in the Bible: Judas,” said a young lady. “He couldn’t live with the guilt of betraying Jesus, so he chose suicide.” She said firmly.
“Tough room!” I thought. Were they trying to prove with the Bible that committing suicide was a normal reaction to feeling hopeless? As an Adventist English as a Foreign Language instructor working in an Adventist school, I had to do something to counteract that message. So I opened up the Bible looking for light on this topic and a hope for my students if they’d come across with suicidal thoughts.
Check back soon for part 2 of this 13 Reasons Why or 200 Reasons to Live series!
i An American teen drama web television series developed for Netflix by Brian Yorkey.