I have been a youth pastor for over 6 years. Over these years, I have spoken with hundreds of youth about depression, anxiety, self-esteem issues, sex, drinking, drugs, bullying, and suicide. In each encounter, I’ve done my best to speak life into these young people. It has always been my intention to reveal to them a sacred worth many of them do not feel they have. These conversations have led me to pray deeply and intentionally for each of the youth I have been fortunate to serve. It prompted me to read books, attended seminars and conferences, watch videos, and take courses on mental health with teenagers and young adults. However, none of my experiences and training prepared me for the raw truth revealed in the Netflix Original series 13 Reasons Why. Let me be very clear: This show is not for the faint at heart, but in my opinion, should be watched by every single parent with a teenager. As not to delay this blog any further, please consider these reasons why you and your teens and young adults should what this show.
- Suicide is Real– I can’t be any clearer here. The weights of this world can push anyone to desire not to live any longer. We ignore these weights and try our best to act as if they make everyone stronger but the reality is that they can break us. The saying what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is not always true. Just because it didn’t kill us doesn’t mean we don’t want to die. This is especially important with young people.
- Just Because We Don’t See It As an Issue...- Many adults make this very vital mistake: just because you don’t see it as an issue, does not mean it is not an issue. Adults can downplay issues that are of vital importance in the lives of young people for a number of reasons. Let me warn you… they hurt too, they feel too, and their issues of being socially awkward at school is just as valid as our social issues at work. Their weight issues have greater impact on their social groups than ours. Their fear of failure is just as important as yours, and perhaps even heighten because they have us breathing down their necks, demanding their best 100 percent of the time when we only strive for greatness less than half of that. Their issues matter and we can’t ignore that.
- Their High School Experience is not ours Our young people have a social platform that was not available to us… social media! Our drama was not made public with the click of a button or the snap of a picture, to be shared with the entire world in a matter of seconds. Their worlds are so much bigger than ours could have ever been. They have more eyes, more critics, more skeptics, and more haters speaking and commenting on every area of their lives: their appearance, their grades, their love life, their sexuality, their passions… EVERYTHING ABOUT THEIR LIVES IS UNDER WATCH! We as adults have to be sensitive to this, and not dismiss it because it was not our teenage experience.
- The conversation is important- Sometimes parents and young people only have tough conversations when crisis or circumstance creates the need. The teenage girl down the street is pregnant, lets talk about sex. The neighbor’s son was caught drinking, lets talk about alcohol. A kid at the school dies… Lets talk about how that made you feel. But after we, the adults, feel confident in our little talk, we move on and leave them alone to deal with the feelings and emotions that come with their choices and the choices of their peers. As adults some times we are too busy to have important conversations, and tragedy interrupts our regularly scheduled broadcast, prompting us to pause for a moment. Many of us even think it can’t happen to us, or our children. My prayer is that we would seek more opportunities to open the lines of communication between our youth and adults. 13 Reasons can do that.
Quite honestly, I could list several more reason, but I wont. Hopefully my four ramblings above will provoke you to watch, and then discuss the implications with your loved ones. Mental health is important, and our young people are out here at times dealing with it alone. As a religious person, I’m often led to believe I need more faith, or just pray away my issues and God will handle it. Yes, prayer does work, but faith without action is dead. We need to have the tough conversations, show more love and compassion to all people, and discover the hidden evils in our hearts and actions that can push people to want to die, and replace them with a heart that seeks healing, reconciliation, and restoration.