The Negligence of “13 Reasons Why”

“13 Reasons Why.”

The Selena Gomez – produced Netflix show that remade the YA fiction novel by the same name.

The topic? Teenage Suicide.


The “13 Reasons” refer to the 13 cassette tapes the victim, Hannah, left behind, explaining why each of the 13 people on the tapes were to blame in why she took her own life.

I didn’t want to watch it. Clearly, this is not a light subject matter, and not particularly something I wanted to watch alone in my studio apartment in New York. But given my affinity for Justin Bieber, and as a result, his first love, Selena Gomez, I wanted to see what she produced.

And well, after watching all 13 episodes in less than 48 hours, I have some thoughts. Strong ones.

Suicide is never the answer. It should never even be an option. Let’s get that right out of the way from the get-go. And if you are having suicidal thoughts, you should seek professional help. Call a crisis hotline. Talk to someone.

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This show got it wrong.

As a survivor of a severe case of anorexia, this topic hits really close to home with me. Too close. During my disease, even though I never would have said, “I want to end my life,” the fact is, my actions communicated just that. I starved myself down to 78 pounds. Anorexia is a slow, drawn out suicide attempt. There. I said it. Whether you realize it or not, you are killing yourself, every day. Every meal you skip. Every calorie you burn. You are slowly and deliberately allowing yourself to waste away.

And there is nothing to glorify there. Nothing to romanticize. Nothing to slap a sepia filter on and call it “teen angst.” It is a form of mental illness; just like conditions that lead to suicidal thoughts and actions. And it should be treated and supervised by professionals.

The thing that made me the most upset about the show, aside from the appalling depiction of sheer ineptness by the guidance counselor, the glamorization of her death through an elaborate “riddle” of tapes left behind, and the depiction of control that creates, the thing that got to me the most was that these tapes – these 13 Reasons – blamed someone for it.

One of my biggest regrets, that I still live with to this day, is thinking that my loved ones blame themselves for my anorexia. Thinking that they were a contributing factor to my illness, or that they did or said something that triggered the development of the eating disorder. It has worn at my spirit that they could possibly blame themselves. And over and over and over, I’ve tried to communicate to them that it wasn’t their fault. Sure, tense words were said, and maybe sometimes the best decisions weren’t made, but the fact is, we all were just getting through it the best we could, the best we knew how.

No one is to blame for a suicide. I don’t care how “good” of a story line that creates.

Is it horrible that Hannah had to endure assault and bullying? Absolutely. But taking one’s life is not the only option out there. Where were those options in the plot line?

Finally, my heart absolutely shatters, to think about the impressionable teens who watch this series. Who, like myself, want to check it out because Selena Gomez is on the poster and take her word as “Gospel-ajacent.”

The act of taking one’s life stems from one thing: control. Regain control of a life that seems hopeless, and at a dead end. And the message that the storyline communicates – that Hannah was able to leave a legacy and communicate with her classmates and control them into solving her riddle – it glamorizes, belittles and negates the gravity and severity and finality of the act of suicide. It puts an air of “celebrity” on the devastating act that doesn’t leave people curious, it leaves them ruined. Suicide ruins the loved ones. Shatters them. Leaves them unable to pick up the pieces.

When a person takes their life, there is no more communicating with their friends afterwards. There is no seeing if they’ve solved the riddles or played the “game” by the rules, or done this or that. When a person takes their life, they are no longer alive. They are no more. And everyone is left to put the pieces back together, and fight the horrific guilt that they were to blame.

There is always another option. There is always a way out. No matter how bleak. There is always another option. It is my deepest prayer that if someone who is at risk, watches that series, that they don’t become enamored with the glitz and the notoriety Hannah received after her death. That they realize that there are people that they can reach out to for help. Guidance counselors are good people and, contrary to the depiction in the seriesare well equipped and want to help.

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But lastly, I pray that those at risk youth remember that they’re not alone. That they are loved so fiercely by their Heavenly Father, who wants to fight for them. And even though that might not seem like enough, it has the power to turn things around.

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“13 Reasons Why” is negligent. It panders to the glorification of a tragedy that should never, ever be glossed over or trivialized or romanticized.

Hannah had a mental illness. And with proper care and guidance, her story could have ended a lot differently.

And I pray that for anyone watching it, they realize that too.

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528 thoughts on “The Negligence of “13 Reasons Why”

  1. Very much truth in your post…yet, the Beyond 13 Reasons Why (14th) episode was the part everyone watching needs to see. The cast and production crew explained the purpose of this controversial piece. Certainly worthy of a conversation is every community?

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  2. I’ve only recently heard of the show. In fact, my wife has been watching it. Personally, I don’t think I can sit in front of a TV long enough to get through it. But I do understand the concept behind the show. I have very mixed feelings about the series. I have witnessed the how harsh people have been towards suicide victims. People want to assign their own reasons for the tragedy, but nobody really understands WHY? That is the one question I hear so much in every situation in which a suicide has taken place. I’ve often wanted to answer that question for people myself. A lot of what I see is people talking about how stupid the person was or how selfish they are being. So I can understand a desire to answer the question, why? I’m not sure it is trying to glamorize suicide or trying to help people understand.

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  3. I completely agree with you, very well said. I volunteer with NAMI and present the “Ending the Silence” presentation to high school students. We talk about the warning signs of mental illness, including suicide, and what to do about it, how to help a friend who may be suicidal. I haven’t done a presentation since the hype of 13 Reasons Why, but I’m interested to hear what the kids have to say about it. It worries me that they may not take suicide as serious as it is, that the show may have glamorized it, put it in a different light than it truly is. Mental illness should never be trivialized. And there are options, there is help available. Thanks for sharing your views!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this perspective, Jenny. What a powerful volunteering job you do. That’s so awesome. You’re right, it is an important topic that needs to be talked about and I just pray that it doesn’t do more harm than good. thanks for stopping by. big hugs xo

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow. What a great analysis. You hit it spot on! I watched only three episodes and then decided I didn’t want to waste my time anymore watching the show.
    I feel that what Hannah went through is no different than what most of us went through in adolescence: friendship betrayal, gossip, public humiliation, insecurities, etc. In fact, I would say most of us have had even MORE traumatic events in our life than Hannah. Despite her internal pain, I feel like she committed suicide as a “screw you” to those around her, which is so messed up and self-centered.
    My cousin hung himself outside at my family’s cabin in the woods when I was a little kid, and watching how it effected my whole family was horrendous. My aunt places a lot of the blame on herself, and is still very effected by it to this day, +10 years later.
    I think one of the many problems in America is that we throw pity parties for ourselves, when in reality, we have so much good around us! We are blessed in comparison to other countries. If we stop focusing so much on what we don’t have, and instead on what we have, and striving to help other people, it can do wonders for our mindset. But most importantly, Jesus is the true healer in all things. Speaking from someone who overcame deep, dark depression here.

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    1. Thank you so much Hannah!I’m so glad this resonated with you. Yeah, it was definitely a hard show to watch and I just hope that the glamorization of it doesn’t negatively influence at risk youth. And gosh, I am so sorry that you had to go through that as a child. How just terribly tragic. I am just so sorry. Yeah, the fact that Hannah put that guilt and blame on those left behind is just awful, because they’re already having to figure out how to put the pieces back together, this is just salt to a wound. Lots of really interesting food for thought here. thanks for stopping by. yes! He is the true healer. Thanks for sharing your story. big hugs xox

      Liked by 3 people

  5. Reblogged this on mainer74 and commented:
    Teenage suicide has recently touched my life, and deeply hurt both my daughter and daughter in law. To see it glorified and romantasized on TV and netflicks is really beyond dangerous and all the way to criminal.

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  6. I read the book when I was 14, and I can tell you this that the book was not all like the way the show has been depicted. However, both of them missed the most important part, depression makes people blame mostly themselves, not others. The show intended to create sensitivity amongst people for how their actions and words might harm others but the way it has been shown might make impressionable teens and preteens believe that suicide might be an easier way to deal with their respective situations. Here we are, trying to spread the word and encourage people to understand that self harm and suicide do only harm to themselves and to people that surround them. You of all people know how hard it is to resist these urges and how easy to give into them. Popularising the concept of suicide instead of the importance of mental health might give the last push some vulnerable teens require to go down that road. Most of all, the victims of suicide, the people who were left behind also need to be reminded repeatedly that it wasn’t their fault. The show only provokes these thoughts and make those people miserable. We need to be reminded that wherever there might be people who are reckless in their actions and language, there are also people who are just trying to do their best, who end up being the one drowning in the blame left behind. I applaud you for writing this post, and thank you for reading my very long message.

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    1. Hi Charvi, oh my gosh, thank you so much for this powerful perspective. You’re so right — I cannot imagine how painful this series must have been if you were one of the ones left behind. Because it’s true — combating guilt and blame is something they’re going to be wrestling with for the rest of their lives. I think you hit the nail on the head, we should be having conversations about mental health – because that is so monumentally important for all people, but especially young people navigating the stresses and challenges of middle/high school. Thanks for stopping by. big hugs xo

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi! Stopped by to look at your blog. This a very simple but powerful message you have given, filled with truth. The thing that especially struck me is the part where you talk about the guilt that others bear for your choices. That resonates with me because some of my children have taken some very bizarre life paths and for a long time I felt that I was responsible. It didn’t help at all that my oldest daughter told me that I was a very selfish father, which I already knew. Time is a terrible master over our lives. It flies by, we make choices as best we can with the limited knowledge we have, and then, when older, we realize that some of our decisions were, quite frankly, dreadful. There is not only the hurt of knowing that the decision hurt another human being, but the constant, nagging ache of wishing we could somehow go back and relive the moment and do it right.

    Ultimately I had to do two things to get over the guilt: 1.) realize that while I made some mistakes, I wasn’t a terrible father. I was sort of muddling through, doing the best I knew how at the time. Part of correcting my errant vision of my past self was to remember – to deliberately think of those times when I did do “good dad,” and enjoy those memories. 2.) realize that my daughter’s choices were exactly that – HER choices, just as the bad choices I made in my life were not the fault of my father. I had come to a point of stopping the blame game with him and realizing that I had a multitude of ways I could have responded to his lack of attention in my life. I chose bad ways, just as my daughter did.

    Thanks for a good article. I enjoyed reading it, especially that now I know what”13 Reasons” is if it comes up in conversation somewhere!

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this heartfelt reflection. Though I cannot speak from a parent’s perspective, I can speak from the daughter’s, and you’re absolutely right – her choices were her choices, just like my choices were my choices and not the fault of my parents. I’m so glad this resonated with you so personally. I’m so glad you’ve figured out that path to healing and peace. big hugs xox

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I watched the series, finding it quite profound. Of course, all story lines made for television viewing audiences are glorified in some manner for ratings and such. With that said, I do not think the series or it’s intent was to glamorize suicide, nor highlight it as a simple option, without doing a fantastic job of reflecting the aftermath it leaves behind for friends and loved ones. I think the creative decision to incorporate 13 tapes explaining why Hannah chose to end her life, was not at all an attempt to place blame or leave anyone with infinite guilt. I do however, feel it was a reach towards explaining what actually goes on in the mind of someone struggling at that level emotionally. Sure she was responsible for ending her life. We are all responsible for how we respond to the world. But beyond that, the tapes were a glimpse into unanswered questions her friends and family would have had, had she chosen not to leave any explanation of her motivations/causes for why she ended her life so abruptly. This is the sad reality for many friends/ families who lose someone to suicide, ones who never get any light shed onto the darkness the person lost was experiencing. Although what seems normal/everyday teenage stuff, for some it’s far from normal and easily navigated. Watching the series in full, I think it did a beautiful job of covering both modern and old, common issues faced by young adults in the hierarchy of high school. I believe the show was intended to make sense out of an otherwise irrational thing–suicide. It was meant to highlight the significance of bullying and the sad, yet very real outcomes that come of it every day. The very fact this series was bold enough to discuss issues much of society would rather brush under the rug, or “help/fix’ with a band-aid approach, was an incredibly brave and admirable move. I certainly do not disagree with your perspective regarding the series’ lack of discussion on suicide not being the only option…But again, this series was a story line in the wake of a suicide, not prior to her making the choice. The producers clearly sent a message behind where the school counselor and administrators failed to intervene. I loved the show. Hit home in a million places. I would recommend all young adults and grown adults alike see it. It does nothing short of provoking thought into how we treat one another, how something so simple to us could be life-changing to another. There is important content that will touch the recesses of any heart. GREAT JOB Selena Gomez!

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  9. I haven’t watched this series, and I cannot. It makes me so angry. I agree with what you’ve said here. It is partially about exerting control over a situation in which one feels they have none. It is a way to fight, but it’s fighting dirty and punishing people in the process – which is what it does. It punishes EVERYONE, including the person who commits it.

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  10. WOW! Behold! The Power Of Love From On High Descending Upon Us All. It Never Fails. It Always Avails! You got it, my sister! How beautiful are the feet that carry the Good News of Life from on high. Much love, thiaBasilia. A Kindred Spirit. Let’s Unite. 🙂

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  11. Great post, as always. I love that – There is always a way out. I hope that message gets out to the right people. Never feel trapped that you feel you have no option. Your experiences have brought you great insight.

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  12. I am also a teenager and it hurts me too when I hear kids my age take away from themselves the greatest gift life has to offer, life itself. Yes, sometimes we have to go through the unimaginable uncharted territory but that just means that what is about to come, is so great. The harder you have try, the greater the result will be. Sometimes we have to o through the hard times to come out great. It’s boot camp. God may be using it to bring you out stronger, greater and definitely more happier. Life is not a one lane highway, it presents it’s own twists and turns. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. God made you to be above and beyond. The greater the darkness, the stronger the light will shine.

    This is an amazing post. It’s been a pleasure to come back and visit you again. God bless you. . . .

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story, friend. You’re so right, what is about to come *is* great. and I love that – it’s boot camp! isn’t that the truth! I just love this reflection so much. Thank you for being so open and sharing those profound thoughts! you have quite an incredible outlook on life. you’re an inspiration to me! big hugs xox

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve not seen this series, but from your post–and what I’ve heard about 13 Reasons Why–there’s no reason to support the show. Thanks for your thought-provoking post.

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    1. Thanks so much friend. Yeah, I applaud them for trying to open up a dialogue about an important topic, but I’m afraid the show has done more harm than good. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love xox

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  14. I think the message of the book, and the series based off of it, are both beneficial and destructive to society. It speaks to those who do what they want to do so recklessly, without thinking about how their actions might affect others. 13 Reasons Why tells them that they should be careful how they treat others, how their careless actions might impact the lives of the people around them. In that case, I think the book made a good job.

    But I also agree with what you said. If I’m a suicidal person and I read this book or watched the show, I would think that committing suicide really is the only way to express myself to those who won’t listen, that suicide would be the only way to make people realize that they should’ve treated me better. And that’s so not true.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for this thoughtful and powerful reflection. I definitely appreciate their message of kindness. I just hope that this show hasn’t done more harm than good. Thanks for stopping by. Hugs and love xox

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Kimberly,

    Your transparent and heart-felt comment really caught my attention, feeling a twinge in my own heart for what you are going through. I’ll join with others who are praying for you today.

    May the Lord continue to guide your footsteps, and give you His peace as you are looking to Him and walking with Him.

    Blessings, sis!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I haven’t read the book or watched the series. That being said, I looked through a folder of some poetry I had written and realized that I had written more and better poems after I had gone through a dark period in my life. If I had ended things, those poems would never have been written. Also, I have a younger brother who was struggling with depression at the time, although I didn’t realize it. I don’t know if he would have been influenced to commit suicide, but it’s highly likely. I am happier now than I was before, because my relationship and understanding of God improved and I went to counseling. My recommendation to anyone struggling would be to find someone safe to talk to, and to realize that although you feel alone, there are people who will be affected.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am so glad that you’re doing well. That is really such powerful advice. I pray that someone reads that who needs to hear it. thanks again, friend. sending you the biggest hugs and love xox

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  17. Hey,

    Great read! My ex-girlfriend has issues with anorexia and tried to share with me what it was all about, but I cannot say that I knew how she felt. But, as an theist at one point in my life, and feeling hopeless, I can say I know what it feels like to feel suicidal. I pulled myself up, later became saved, and know urge to gelp others who feel like I felt before. I totally agree tgat others are not to blame when people commit suicide. No matter what happens to us, we have the choice to respond in numerous ways. Keep sharing your experience and opinions.

    One love and God bless.
    THANKS FOR reading my post also on being an ex-con artist 😉

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    1. thanks again for all your reading tonight, and for sharing part of your story. I’m so sorry that you’ve had to walk that road, but I’m so so glad you’re in a better place. You’re right, we do have a choice, and that is so important to communicate in the discussion about this topic. Thanks for your powerful encouragement tonight. sending massive hugs and love x

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’re so welcome. Reading more posts. I feel like I can travel the world reading people’s posts from all over. thus is exciting. Excuse me, I’m new at this lol.

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  18. I haven’t seen this film, but I want to appluad you on the points you’ve made. Suicide is devastating and shouldn’t be glamorized. I also want to say that you are truly brave for sharing your journey and testimony with others. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  19. This is a beautiful post. I am so sorry you went through that awful time when you were younger. I do agree that there are so many other options out there that need to be shared. Thank you for your thoughts on this topic and for sharing something so personal. That is very difficult to do and reading this blog post opened my eyes more to why there is so much controversy on the show.

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  20. It seems like the real killer was all this new technology. The Mexican dude seems immune to a lot of the BS because he wasn’t as entrenched in the digital world like most of his high school peers….interesting.

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    1. That’s a really interesting perspective. when I was first watching it, for the first couple of episodes, I thought he was a ghost haha But you’re right – technology and the pressures that social media bring has really had a negative impact on teens and, really all people. thanks for sharing your thoughts. big hugs xox

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe it wasn’t great on suicide…but I thought it did justice teaching kids about rape.

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      2. I’m not done with the season but I like it….I think it’s less about suicide and more about people having principles and standing up for your principles when you’re tested.

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      3. Bryce was a textbook psycho which I loved. He was nice to everybody, had the money, popular….just like The George Bush/Obama type psychopaths.
        Most of the show he had everybody covering for him after they knew what happened.

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  21. Hey BBB, thanks for liking my blog today,(summer transitions). I found this blog of interest because this book was just removed from the library shelves of my daughter’s high school yesterday. Her school has a high suicide rate. I really enjoyed your writing and the format of your blog post (on my phone). Mind if I share it? I will be following you. I am just beginning to blog and it seems just as I get it all figured out they (either word press or my hosting company) change everything up. It’s all good I like learning new things. Looking forward to more of your blogs. Awesome stuff!!

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    1. Hi Renee, thank you so much for sharing this powerful response. Wow. I think that was a really good thing for your high school to do. Gosh, that makes my heart so sad to hear that this issue is so prevalent at her school. I would be honored if you shared it. Thanks for your kind words. I will definitely keep your daughter’s school in my thoughts and prayers. big hugs to you xox

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Thank you for you for your subscription to mommyfaithlife. Your post got me teary-eyed. Altough, I have not watched “13 Reasons Why” Hollywood wrongly depicts A Lot of thins. Thank you for bringing trutj to a serious subjuct

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  23. I am currently half way through “13 Reasons Why.” I agree that the show over simplifies suicide and does romanticize it. I also think that the show is more of a think piece, a pondering of suicide and its view as a solution. Additionally, I am unsure of who the intended audience is of the story. Is it aimed at teens/youth or is it aimed at adults? If it is aimed at teens/youth I do believe the show failed, which is due to its view of suicide as a solution and a way to communicate pain after-the-fact (something that just can not happen). If it is aimed at adults/parents, it is possible (I have not completed the story, and know only of its overarching arc and what I have read in reviews and critiques) the story succeeds. The signs that the main character exhibits can suddenly be more obvious to parents when they see their own children, and so might ask their child to join them in watching in hopes of creating a dialogue. Those dialogues before anyone takes a drastic decision could save lives, which is what I am taking away from the show. “13 Reasons Why,” while not easy to sit through because of the topic and theme, is family viewing meant for discourse amongst friends and family in an effort to understand each other better.

    Thank you so much for your point of view, insights, and thoughts.

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    1. Thank you os much for this thoughtful response. Yeah, I definitely think that if teens view it, it should be with parents or mentors, as a tool for discussion. Because you’re right it really didn’t offer any other solutions. It really missed the mark in my opinion and i just pray that it doesn’t do more harm than good. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond. big hugs xo

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  24. I agree that no one is to blame for someone else’s life choices. Once you are an adult you are free to choose how you react to what happened to you. You can’t change what happened that was beyond your control but you can change how you react to it. I have battled with eating disorders, additions, and suicide most of my life. Times when it was better than others and times when it was worse. It took me until I was 45 to find the right therapy for me, someone who could work with me without fearing the content of my thoughts who would never give up and would push me to my limits to discover who I am, what life is, and what God is and how that all works for me. It is a work in progress but it is working, finally. The one thing we can’t ever do is give up. The current western medical response to suicide and so many other things is so often inadequate but it is better than no help at all. I look at those people as the ones who kept me alive long enough for me to find what really works for me. The work I do personally is very intensely spiritual and eastern based but it works. If we can send a message to anyone it is that you keep at it until you find what works and when you can’t keep at it yourself you get whatever help you need. I enjoyed reading your post and look forward to reading more.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I just want to give you a big hug. I’m so glad that you’ve found that healing and peace. You’re so right – we can’t ever give up. Thank you for sharing your heart. Big big hugs xox

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    1. Gosh, that just breaks my heart so much. I am so sorry that this tragic scenario has touched your life so personally. You’re so right – it doesn’t have to end that way. sending you the biggest of hugs. xox

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  25. Yeah I couldn’t even make it to the 3rd episode of this show because I was rolling my eyes so hard. Not because I think suicide is “pfft whatever”, of course not, but because of the selfish, childish, ridiculous message the show was putting out there, and how harmful it could be to young people watching. You pretty much hit the nail on the head. I should probably slog through all the episodes just so I can have a full understanding but gosh… The irresponsibility of the showrunners/producers/everyone involved is just appalling.

    -Helene, https://angelspartaness.wordpress.com/

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  26. I watched the series and I have to agree with you, no one can blame others for their despair. Now that doesn’t mean others don’t contribute to it, but I don’t think you can blame others because you cannot deal with life. A person needs to find resiliency and hope within themselves. I’ve been there as a teen, wanting to commit suicide. What I realized is that once you’ve done it it’s over. People’s will mourn…for a while then you fade from memory; not completely, but life goes on. I always think you should help others if they are at that point but if someone is really that hopeless I don’t know if there is anything that anyone can say or do to turn them around.

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    1. Thank you so much for this thoughtful reflection. I’m so sorry that this hit so close to home. You’re right – we’ve got to encourage people to find that hope – and reassure them that that hope is there 🙂 so glad that you found that hope 🙂 sending big big hugs xox

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