Remove 13 Reasons Why

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My 1lb 4oz baby died in my arms on Christmas Eve.  Holding my unbreathing baby was the saddest day of my life.  My world as I knew it died, too.  My heart was shattered into millions of pieces.  In an instant, my dream became a nightmare and swallowed me whole.  How was I going to recover from this?  8 months later, I have more strength, courage, bravery, love, compassion, perspective, insight, growth, etc. because I chose to stand tall and face this horrible, life altering event.  And, I want nothing more than to share this strength.  To give it out to those who feel they do not have any.  To those who feel they cannot cope and want to take the easy way out because it is “popular” and way too normalized in their lives.

13 Reasons Why gives the exact opposite message as the one I so passionately want to fill hearts with.  13 Reasons Why tells teens when someone has hurt you, it’s ok to then hurt yourself.  When life is hard, it’s ok to point fingers and blame others.   This message is wrong on so many levels. Teens are impulsive and engage in high risk situations.  Especially, when those situations are deemed, “cool” or the “in thing to do.”  A teenager’s life revolves around their peers.  If they experience a fight or a threat of losing a friend, or falling out of their social circle, their brains light up in the same region an adult’s brain would light up when shown images of actual life-threatening situations (car crashes, home invasions).  This means, when a teen senses a peer conflict, they can literally feel as if they are going to die.  Why are we not providing them with hope and reassurance that this is a moment in their life?  Why must we overload their underdeveloped brains with messages of hopelessness? 

It doesn’t matter how many reasons one finds to end their life, because all it takes is one reason to stay, to not give up, to heal a broken heart. 

I am a licensed professional counselor, specializing in adolescents.  I spent 8 years as a primary therapist, at a residential treatment facility for adolescent girls struggling with depression, anxiety, addictions, self-harm, eating disorders, family conflict, adoption issues, self-esteem issues, etc.  It was at this job I was first introduced to the book, 13 Reasons Why.  A 15-year-old girl came to treatment following a suicide attempt.  I remember our first session like it was yesterday.  I asked her, “What brings you to treatment?  Is this your idea, or are you forced to be here by your parents?”  “I hate my school.  I hate my peers.  I took an overdose.  I wanted them all to feel bad and guilty for my death.”  My heart dropped.  This was so sad.  And, so unhealthy. 

About a month later she asked me to approve her book, 13 Reasons Why.  I took the book home and read my patient’s story unfold in the pages of this book.  Google queries about suicide rose by almost 20 percent in 19 days after the show came out, representing between 900,000 and 1.5 million more searches than usual regarding the subject.  The searches most found were, “how to commit suicide” “teen suicide” “suicide hotline number” Seventeen out of the top 20 searches were significantly elevated, and the biggest increases came with terms related to suicidal thoughts and ideation, like “how to kill yourself”  Searches for precise suicide methods increased after the series release (https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/08/13-reasons-why-demonstrates-cultures-power/535518/?utm_source=atlfb

The patient who introduced me to this book, is now a thriving young adult.  She finished high school, and is in her last year at a University where she is studying psychology.  She is interested in a job at the treatment center she went through years ago.  Had she succeeded in her suicide, an idea and act taken from the book, she would not be alive today to share her experience, strength and hope with those lucky people who meet her.  Her story is one of many.  Erika, also fell victim to the message in this book.  Today she has over 4 years clean and sober, is working at a recovery center and is fulfilling her dream of working in the criminal justice department to help victims of rape.  How amazing is that?

The death of my son brought me to my knees.  Awakening to a new state of existence stood me up.  I know I am not the first person to have these concerns and I won’t be the last.  I am, however, taking a stand, having a voice, and doing my part to make a change. 

  I’m begging you, as a parent, an adolescent licensed professional counselor who has seen too many teens at the edge of life, a woman in recovery, a survivor, a human being, please do not continue to overload these poor kids with the wrong messages. 



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