Finding Hope for the Hopeless
by Candice Smith and Lisa Sorey

Lisa Sorey is a staff therapist at Summit Counseling and Candice Smith is a staff intern at Summit Counseling.

In March of 2017, Thirteen Reasons Why became the most popular television series for Netflix and the most tweeted show of 2017. My social media news feed has been flooded with opinions, debates and “likes” for the newest and hottest teenage series. The Executive Producer of this series is Selena Gomez, a popular Disney star who is the most followed person on Instagram.

As I watched the first episode my mind drifted to Leonardo DiCaprio’s version of Romeo + Juliet, 1996! Two forlorn lovers who bid adieu via a “romantic” suicide of one not being able to live without the other. Juliet tries to kiss the poison from Romeo’s lips, but, alas, there is not enough poison to kill the fair maiden. This causes her to kill herself with a dagger and fall to death upon Romeo.

In actuality, drinking poison (or by today’s standards, taking pills), is a female’s chosen method of suicide. According to Teen Suicide Statistics, girls tend to choose pills because it allows them enough time to “stage” their appearance. Even knocking on death’s door, females tend to be obsessed with their looks. Females find it more “romantic” to die in this method. Their beauty will not be affected by an overdose, as it would a gunshot wound.

Although teen suicide dipped in the 1990s and early 2000s, it has increased by 6% in recent years. Many news sources believe suicide has become “trendy” in more recent years. 13 Reasons Why has opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box. Out of the box, many emotions have risen but Pandora managed to keep “hope” in the jar. Perhaps, through this series of 13 Reasons Why, the audience may find hope. Life as a teenager in today’s time is becoming less parallel when compared with life of a teen 100 years ago.

Although our parents or grandparents may have been bullied in the schoolyard, picked on for their attire or made fun of because of their financial status, there is no comparison to the lengths bullies will go to today. What may have once been a school yard brawl, witnessed by 20 people, is now able to be plastered on the internet for thousands to witness your humiliation.

Micro-aggression, defined by Merriam Webster as “a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group,” is found in schools, on the bus, playgrounds and even home. Traumatic issues such as bullying (physical or cyber), sexual assault and social injustices have only increased. These examples are also used in the series.

Because suicide is on the rise and is occurring more frequently, it shouldn’t be taboo or unacceptable to discuss. What should be unacceptable is the fact that a teen feels he or she has nowhere to turn and the only answer is suicide.

As a parent, I would suggest watching this series with your teen. You know your child better than anyone else. It might be wise to watch at least one episode before your teenager watches it. It is still important to monitor all electronic influences in your child’s life. This includes social media, television, music, YouTube, video games—everything!

As you watch the series together, your teen may have questions, although he or she may not voluntarily ask you. Throughout the show, pause for reflection. Ask your teen how he or she would have handled a certain situation. After the show, ask your teen about the stressors that take place at school. (For example, do you ever feel anxious at school?) Discuss whether you child feels they have been on the receiving end of bullying, whether it’s cyber bullying, verbal, non-verbal or physical? These are only a few of the many discussion topics that can take place.

Research has proven that professional help can decrease the rate of suicide in teens. (Please make sure you read that statement!) Summit Counseling is available to help. We can provide Christian counseling that is affordable and accessible.

Your teens are precious to you, to us, but most of all they are precious to God! God’s word tells us the we are all created in His image! (Genesis 1:27)

It is our desire at Summit that we help the hopeless find Hope. This is God’s desire for us also. Psalm 9:18 describes it so well, “God will never forget the needy…”