“TH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY” by Jay Asher: Suicide Warning Signs and What We Can Do to Save More Lives
Catherine is a 15 year-old from California. She loves reading novels and her favorite subject is English.
“I guess that’s the point of it all. No one knows for certain how much of an impact they have on the lives of other people. Often we have no clue.” –Hannah Baker (from the novelTH1RTEEN R3ASONS WHY)
Have you ever wondered what sort of impact you have the potential to make on someone’s life? Think about your high school days. Is there anything you regret, something you wish you could have done differently? Recently, I read a book called, Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher. It’s about a girl named Hannah who committed suicide, yet before her death she left a series of tapes behind (thirteen, in fact) explaining her death. These tapes were sent around to a list of people, specifically those who played a role in her fatal decision. My friends and I absolutely loved this book. Although it was a rather depressing read, it taught me at least one thing: the way we choose to act towards others has the ability to be life-changing, for not only ourselves, but also those around us.
Suicide is a serious subject, yet not often discussed in depth, at least in my experience. Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-24 year olds, and the third leading cause of death in 10-14 year olds? Suicide is a difficult topic to discuss; yet it’s important to know about it. Mainly, why would someone want to end their life in the first place, and what are the warning signs? According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, teens attempt suicide due to major changes such as depression, confusion, body changes, uncertainty, overwhelming pressure, and changes in thinking. In Hannah’s case, she decided to commit suicide due to the rumors spread about her at school, affecting how everyone treated her. Teens may also consider suicide as a result of consecutive overwhelming or upsetting events, such as moving to a new area, parents getting a divorce, etc. Suicide may seem like the only solution to their problems.
In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah committed suicide as a result of her own, and her classmates’ actions. It all started out with a false rumor, claiming that Hannah was something of a slut. When Hannah went to school, the rumor hung over her, something she couldn’t shake off. Her classmates treated her differently, and even her friends began to treat her differently. Her reputation consumed her life, and eventually it began to tear her down. Some kids pranked her, made snarky remarks, and toyed around with her feelings. They all thought it was just fun and games, when in reality their bullying would result in something far greater. At one point in the story, the antagonist, Clay, was with Hannah at a party. But then she started crying, and demanded that he leave. Clay reluctantly agreed, but this proved to be a dire mistake. While listening to the tapes Hannah left behind, Clay realized all the warning signs were right in front of them, but at the time, everyone was too caught up in their own lives to notice the one that needed help the most. Many don’t recognize the warning sign until it’s too late. Then, everyone asks, “What could we have done? What should we have done?” But at that point, it doesn’t matter, because they’re already gone. So what are the warning signs of someone thinking about suicide?
Some are extremely subtle, so one may have to keep a close eye on the person’s actions and even choice of words.
In Thirteen Reasons Why, one of the warning signs I learned is a sudden change in the person’s appearance. Did they get a haircut? Does it seem like they no longer care about their appearance, by wearing shabbier clothing? Usually, one changes their appearance in the hopes that someone will notice them.
A suicidal person will withdraw from family and friends, and no longer participate in once-favorite activities. Are they reclusive, and tend to be alone more often and for longer periods of time?
They may also have changes in sleeping or eating habits.
Are they giving away prized possessions, or promising them to family members and friends? In Thirteen Reasons Why, Hannah gave away her bike to Tony without a reason, a sign missed by him.
Do they say things like, “I wish I were dead,” or “I wish I could disappear forever?”
Do they speak positively about death, or are they romanticizing dying? (Ex. “If I died, people might love me more.”)
If you notice any of these warning signs in your child, make sure you to talk to them about what’s troubling them. If your child notices a classmate at school who seems suicidal, tell them to seek out the help of a trusted adult, such as the school counselor, parent, or teacher. The sooner the teen gets help, the better chance they have of being saved from a horrific fate. For more information about teen suicide, and what you can do visit http://www.teensuicide.us/.
Remember that everyone has the potential to make a difference in someone’s life, both good and bad. Unfortunately for the character Hannah, her classmates made a negative impact on her life. Yet this book helped me realize that all our actions have tremendous power that influences not only us, but also everyone else. So all in all, be careful of what you say or do, and make sure your child does the same because you never know what may happen as a result.