“The Last Thing Kids Need is for adults to ignorantly critique this show…” Show some respect. 2nd set of thoughts from a youth minister on #13ReasonsWhy

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Click here for my first assemblage of random thoughts on the show 13 Reasons Why, which has schools, parents, communities, hospitals, and teens upset, shocked, and TALKING. Talking can’t be all bad… Right?

  • I remain upset that the show was ever made in the first place but since it exists and since kids will be watching, the last thing they need is for adults to come against it ignorantly without having watched it or try to understand why it was made or who it was made for. If you think you have an opinion about the show you should actually watch it and watch the “Beyond” commentary to understand what’s going on and then plan to have a dialogue with the teenagers in your life. If you want to keep the door open and keep open honest dialogue you cannot come at them judgementally or tell them it’s wrong or that their feelings don’t count.
  • If you’re horrified by the show or if you know it’s going to be hard to watch but you want to watch it, personally I think it would be OK to watch the “beyond the reasons” conclusion first just so that you disarm some of your disgust with Netflix for making this.
  • Suicide is now the second leading cause of death among teenagers.
  • In my previous post, I said that Hannah was not suffering from clinical depression. It might seem crazy to say that, since she died by suicide. But I still hold to there being a difference between someone who has had terrible things happen to them or has participated in terrible acts and feels shame or guilt or neglect versus someone who has a medical mental illness called Depression. (Conversely I think the case could be made that Alex has Depression). Hannah had every right to feel badly and even situationally depressed but I don’t believe the intent of the show was to show someone who was struggling with a mental illness. I would think she was mentally ill if she was not traumatized by her encounters. Her trauma was situational which is not to be taken any more lightly but just to not conflate the two systems.
  • If you want to be heard by a teenager don’t presume to know what the show says or how it says it without viewing it. If you want to slam a door in their face and lose their respect try to argue points with them if you haven’t seen it. They are going to be obsessed with the details and not the generalities that you want to preach to them.
  • Right now as of today I have personal feelings of regret that Netflix allowed itself to produce the series. I believe that it will be an opportunity for healthy conversation if adults allow themselves but I also think there are going to be negative repercussions because kids simply are not developed enough to understand life and death choices in the implications of them as are portrayed in the show. I also think unfiltered and without guidance, this show, viewed by young teens, is very dangerous – because of its explicit content. Of course, teens will also tell you while it does illustrate despicable acts, it also shows the promise of friendship and truth between people.
  • Respect the teens in your life. No, you can’t identify with their feelings or the things they see and hear. You don’t understand. I don’t understand, and I ask them a lot of questions. As a church worker, I get to see the halo side of them. The saint side. I get to serve Jesus with them on mission trips and pray with them and reason about God with them. I’ve visited them in the hospital and in their kitchens and living rooms. I choose to believe them. That’s a big step adults need to take. It’s easy to be reactionary, to judge, to minimize, to criticize and dismiss the deep feelings kids have around life/death. Letting them know you are on their side never ever hurts.
  • One of my big concerns with this show is a problem and question that life will never answer for us. We can know intellectually it’s “not our fault” if a loved one harms him/herself or even takes their own life. But the pain and questions remain. The questions the adults in this show ask are REAL. How could I miss the signs? Am I complicit? Did I victim-blame? Could I have saved him/her? The teens in the show ask the same type of things. One even saying “I killed Hannah Baker. You killed her, she killed her…” It’s a snap to say “No! We each make our own choices!” Still, again, the pain is there. As care takers we want to rush to say, “No! Don’t blame yourself, don’t go down the drain with it all…” Yet if suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among teens, what are we doing? What are we not doing?
  • If I could wave a magic wand today (I may change my mind) and make this series go away, I probably would. Teens are telling me it’s good, it’s helpful, it’s true-to-life (except that teens don’t call on the phone and don’t leave voice mail, and don’t leave their sound/vibrate ON!), and necessary. They’ve told me they want the blunt honest reality and are sick of adults not saying real words and real thoughts. They don’t want to be candy-coated. Still, I just don’t like the images that are left. For me personally, it’s the razor blade scene at the end. Makes me physically sick. But, the producers will say, that’s the point… Hmm.

Author of the original book series (which I have not read), Jay Asher said on the “Beyond” episode, “The whole issue of suicide is an uncomfortable thing to talk about but it happens so we have to talk about it and it’s dangerous not to talk about it because there’s always room for hope.”

There are already a lot of educator / parent resources out there. Here are some

13 Questions for 13 Reasons “As a mom of seven daughters, a professional in the film industry, a teacher, a social worker, a self-proclaimed child advocate and someone who cares about the future of our human race, I watched what is now the most talked about new Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why. And I am glad that I did.” 

Talking Points: JED

Considerations from School Psychologists  This is an okay piece but I am sensitive to the fact that they use outdated and unhelpful language like “commit suicide” in document. Suicide is not a sin or a crime, so we should not promote stigma by using the word “commit.” Instead, use “died by suicide” or “completed suicide.”

Webinar from Kognito

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First take – random thoughts from a youth minister on #13ReasonsWhy

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I’m going to have more to say about this, but wanted a place to send initial thoughts. These are my opinions as a person who’s worked with teens for over 20 years.

  • First of all, if your teen had 14+ hours to dedicate to watching this, I don’t want to hear anymore about how they don’t have time for church.
  • If you are the parent of a teen, you need to view this show before they do, or at least
    watch it with them. They will be hearing about it, even if they don’t watch it.
  • If you are an adult who works with teens, muscle thru it and watch the show. Teens are going to be talking about this one. Their brains aren’t developed and they can’t truly process with hind-sight what happens in this show.
  • It is not well written. The story line does not make logical sense.
  • That said, it doesn’t matter. That’s not the point!
  • Hannah was NOT suffering from depression. That was never the point of this show. Do not conflate the suicide in this case with a mental illness. That is not true to the show, and it’s also not respectful of those in treatment or who are in need of treatment. In fact, that is one way you can critique this show – it does not do a good job of dealing with the medical aspect of the choices surrounding taking one’s life.
  • Where is the spiritual presence in this show? Did Hannah go to church? The God-part is sadly lacking. You can provide that context. You’ve got it.
  • This is rated TV-MA. That’s kind of like worse than rated-R. The themes are very difficult but so are some of the visuals. There’s no way middle schoolers should be viewing this. But they WILL be watching it. So do what you gotta do.
  • All-in-all, teens will probably tell you that this is an accurate depiction of high school life in 2017. There usually isn’t out-right bullying. It comes in these forms: outing someone’s secrets, spinning webs to keep people in/out, people stabbing people in the back who you thought were your best friends, etc. Teens are not saints OR sinners. They are, as Lutherans teach, BOTH AT THE SAME TIME. This a good showcase.
  • Adults are depicted as clueless and too-late after the fact. Guess what, that’s real life.
  • Your teen kids lie to you. Just like in this show. That’s how they live. You don’t want to hear it and I don’t want to tell that to you. You want to believe they are perfect so you believe the lies. Is there a way to get around that? Probably not, honestly. Teachers, if they are honest, already know this.
  • That said, are schools to blame, really, if a student takes their own life? There’s something to discuss with your teen.
  • It’s not believable that a girl would spend that many hours (when did she make those tapes?) on cassette tape recording these things. Also, the first few episodes make a big deal of a paper map, and that goes away – again, poor writing.

I’ll post more soon!

Click here for 2nd post