Ever since Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why became available on the streaming service, it’s been a hot topic of conversation and controversy. For those who may not know what the series is about, the spoiler free version is a teenaged girl named Hannah Baker commits suicide and no one knows why. She leaves behind a series of cassette tapes with 13 different stories to tell, all leading to the reasons and the people she holds responsible for bringing her to that point.
Many fans have revered the series for putting a spotlight on some very real issues that teenaged high school kids may face in their every day lives. Others have criticized the series, claiming it glorifies or romanticizes the act of committing suicide. Which ever opinion you side one, one thing we can all agree on is, the series has gotten everyone talking which, perhaps, was the intent all along. It’s certainly caused an impact on many around the world.
In fact, the series has caused a huge impact in at least one high school in Michigan. Denise Sweat, Assistant Superintendent, told ABC News that the show has created intense conversations in hallways, classrooms and the cafeteria. As conversation regarding the series began to intensive, Pam Fine, Dean of Oxford High School, decided it was time to develop a plan. As a result, the students of Oxford High School have kicked off a 13 Reasons Why Not campaign and it’s creating some much needed positivity amongst the kids at the school. The school district, having actually dealt with having a student commit suicide back in 2013, kicked off the campaign on May 1st and will run it for 13 days.
During those 13 days, students who are struggling or who have struggled in the past would be given the opportunity to tell their story of struggle to the entire school except, at the end of their story, instead of saying the “this tape is for you,” line and naming a person who has impacted them negatively, they would shout out a person who has helped them. They would thank this person and tell them why they are one of their 13 Reasons Why Not. Each story would then ultimately close with an anti-suicide message.
Throughout the campaign, the 1,800 person student body heard stories about body shaming, poverty, how kids were told to kill themselves, how they felt unwanted or were experiencing trouble at home and more. According to Sweet, the response from the students has been nothing but positive. One student has even said the campaign has been “incredibly impactful.” She continued to say, “it created an environment in our school where it’s acceptable to talk about mental illness or talk to people you have never talked to.”
It’s a brilliant campaign and such a creative way to take the powerful Netflix series and apply the lessons learned from Hannah’s fictional life into a very real reality. We can only hope that more high schools and more children and adults across the country, and the world, will follow suit and start having these important discussions about the importance of celebrating 13 Reason Why Not.