Monday, July 3, 2017

Dear Parents: Advice For Living After The Loss Of Your Child

Dear Parents,

Please allow me to express my deepest condolences to you and your family during this time. Your daughter was a beautiful child.  Every picture I ever saw of her showed a brilliant and contagious smile. I know there is nothing I can say to bring you comfort, but unfortunately, I know the pain of losing a child.  The whole idea of losing a child goes against nature.  No parent is supposed to outlive a child, and life as you know it will never be the same. Know that grief is not linear, it is a non-stop roller coaster, and there is nothing at Six Flags that can prepare you for the ride. After Peytons death, I was inundated by advice from other people, but the best advice came from people who had already been in my shoes.  I want to share with you the advice that they shared with me, as well as some ideas from others who have been there. 

First and foremost, take care of yourself.  Right now, you are in survival mode.  You can experience the gambit of emotions within hours.  You can go from sorrow to anger and back to sorrow all in one day.  Whether you want to or not, you need to eat, drink, sleep, and get some fresh air.  When Peyton was in the hospital, I dropped ten pounds because I didn't care what happened.  I bargained with God to take me and let Peyton live, but here I am.  I now know I am here for a reason, and given time, you will know your reason as well, so please eat something and drink plenty of water with it.  It may seem simple to sit on the couch and lose yourself in mindless television shows (there are more than enough), but you need to get up and take a walk outside.  I know it is summer and hotter than the hinges of Hell right now, but fresh air and exercise will help your mood.  While you are out, look for dragonflies, butterflies, and cardinals.  There are many that see these as a sign (there are more here) that our loved ones are still near us.  Most of all, breathe.  I know it may seem silly to say because this is normally an involuntary reaction, but sometimes it helps to take a deep cleansing breath.  It may also help calm you down and help get you focused. 

Let others help you.  People will offer their help, take it.  It may be running to the grocery store, doing your laundry, cooking a meal, cleaning your house, sitting in a room with you when you dont want to be alone, or watching your kids so that you can take a nap.  There is no shame in asking for help.  There are many people that want to help, but dont know how.  Ask if they would mow the lawn, take your car for an oil change, or give you a ride if you feel unable to drive.  On the flip side, it is okay to tell people no.  Your friends will extend invitations to you in hopes of cheering you up.  You are under no obligation to go.  If you are not up to it, then dont go.  True friends will understand.  The same goes for family.  Just because the family has always gathered at Uncle Joes for Thanksgiving does not obligate you to go.  The first year is perhaps the hardest, especially the holidays.  You can take a pass on them if you want to, or you can even start your own new traditions. 

Go see your doctor.  The stress you are under will tear you apart emotionally and physically.  No doubt you have lost sleep, or perhaps that is all you do.  They can advise you on everything from sleep to diet and exercise that will help.  More than likely, they will do a depression screening.  Answer openly and honestly.  There is no shame in being diagnosed with depression at this point.  With the Hell you are going through right now, no one will be surprised.  Your doctor may prescribe medication to help with your mood and sleep.  If they do, you may want to consider trying it.  They have your best interest at heart.  If you do not think that the meds are helping, then consult the doctor again about something else.  There is no one sure-fire answer.  However, if you feel that they are not helping and want to stop, consult your doctor.  Stopping some of the meds cold turkey can have adverse side effects.  Sleep is also important as well.  After Peyton passed, I didnt sleep well at all.  I had a nonstop hamster wheel going in my brain, and it never got tired. However, I knew I needed sleep, so I began to use Ambien as needed.  I dont use it all the time, but even two and a half years later, the hamster will climb back up there.  Your continued health is important, so maintain it.

Join a support group or counseling, or both.  Just like anything else, there is no one size fits all, so you may go through several groups or counselors before you find one you like and are comfortable in.  I cannot begin to tell you how much both helped me.  My support group has been a blessing to me. My wife and I didnt like the first group we attended. It was a general grief group, and we didnt feel as though it was a good fit.  The second group was specifically for people that had lost a loved one to suicide, and we were welcomed with open arms.  Not only that, we no longer felt like we were alone in the world.  I still continue to go to this day, not only because it helps me, but I see myself helping others that are new to the journey, and that helps me as well.  I also joined several grief groups on Facebook (Compassionate Friends is a great place to start).  It may seem strange writing about your grief to total strangers, but it works.  Sadly, there are many people throughout the world that have tragically lost a child.  It gives you the chance to share your grief with others who can relate.  Therapy helped as well.  I tried to suck it up at first, but one day, four months to the day that I lost Peyton, I completely lost my sh*t in the coaches office.  I sat there and cried, unable to stop.  Eventually, one of the other coaches walked in and just held me and let me cry.  I knew then that I wasnt going to get through this alone.  I went to several counselors before I found one that felt right.  Once I went as far as I could with her, I stopped going only to discover that I needed more help, so I found another.  It goes like that.  There are times when you may need to go weekly, others when you may only go once a month.  You are human, and no one expects you to go through this alone. 

I know right now, your emotions are all over the place.  Scream if you need to scream, cry if you need to cry, go out in the back yard and take an axe to a tree if you think that will help.  You are allowed to cry whenever and wherever you want to.  I have had to pull into parking lots to cry because something I heard on the radio triggered me.  My wife lost it in line at a Starbucks when everything just became too much or her.  You are only responsible to you at this point.  Talk about your daughter all you want when you want. There is no time line on your grief.  There is no calendar that tells you when you should be over this because the answer is never.  She was your baby, your girl, your daughter.  That is not something you will ever get over.  You also need to ease up on yourself.  I know I beat myself up for the longest time.  I blamed myself for Peyton's death, and despite what others told me, I refused to ease up.  I kept playing the if only game over and over in my head.  If only I had done this or said that, then Peyton would still be alive.  I was reminded by an old friend about the something I was told long about using if.  He reminded me that if my aunt had nads, shed be my uncle. You can if yourself into oblivion, but it will not change the outcome.  Somehow, some way, this was part of Gods plan, and yes, I was really pissed at God for quite a while.  However, I put my faith in God, and I know that Peyton is in a better place, and he is no longer in pain. Know that where your daughter is, everything is beautiful and nothing hurts.  

There are also a few donts I would like to convey.  Dont rush any decisions or make any major decisions right now.  The saying is give it a year.  I did that, and I am glad I did.  Looking back, I would have made some very grave errors in judgement if I had gone with my gut at the time.  Any decisions I would have made would have led to horrific consequences.  Dont feel obligated to anyone whether it is friends, or work, or whatever.  True friends will understand, and work will always be there.  Neither of those is a priority for you, you are the priority.  Dont let people talk you into what they think is right. Do what you want to do.  Dont look for comfort or escape in the wrong place.  Avoid alcohol or other intoxicants.  Food can be a danger too.  They may momentarily dull the pain, but when the effect wears off, reality will come flooding back with a vengeance.  don't get upset if someone says something stupid, especially if they mean well.  No one is out to upset you, but finding the right words come hard.  Repress the urge to throat punch them.  Don't get upset when others move on.  Soon, people will go back to their lives and families, but you will still be in this never ending hell.  It will frustrate you because you not because of anything that they do, but because their lives are back to normal, and your's will never be again.  You will see families together laughing and carrying on, and would will want to scream, "My child is gone!  How can you be so happy?"  Most of all, don't forget your family.  Your kids will need you as much as you need them.  Family takes priority over everything, including work.  If your coworkers and employer don't understand, screw 'em.  You can always get another job, but you only get one family.  

Finally, know this, it gets better.  Dont get me wrong, you have a long road ahead of you, and it is going to suck for a long time.  Is sorry I am being blunt, but I am not going to blow sunshine up youre a$$ and tell you all will be back to normal soon.  It never will. Eventually, you will establish a new normal.  Things are going to suck for a long, long time.  Then one day, youre going to wake up, and things will suck a little less, and even less a week or two later.  Thats not to say there wont be backslides.  You will feel like you are standing in the ocean facing the beach.  You will feel the waves hitting you from behind.  One might push you forward, the next might hit the back of your knees, the next may just wash over your ankles, only to have the next knock you flat on your face.  All you can do is keep getting up, and bracing for what is to come.  Dont get discouraged because you will learn to live with it.  Rely on others, rely on each other, and rely on your faith. As I said before, there is nothing I can say or do that will ease the pain.  There is no magic elixir or time line that will lead to happiness.  There are no short cuts or cheats to relieve your pain.  There is just time. 

During that time, you collect memories of your child.  Have people send you pictures and videos of your child, as well as having them write stories and their favorite memories.  You can use these to create a memory book.    It has been suggested the best way to do this is to set up a memorial page on Facebook and have others put pictures there.   Even though physical presence is gone, her spirit can stay with you forever. 

As the days become weeks, the weeks become moths, and the months become years, the pain will recede.  It will always be there, but it will not be all consuming.  Rely on friends, rely on family, and rely on faith, and it will get better.  Know that myself and others are here for you when you need us.  There is no favor too small to ignore, and there is no hour too late or too early to ask.  All we ask in return is that you let us. 


David James

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Dear Recipient, Happy Birthday

God gave us the gift of life; it is up to us to give ourselves the gift of living well. Voltaire

Today, June 16th, would have been Peyton's 16th birthday.  Although he is no longer with us, he still lives on in the memories of those that love him, as well as through the efforts of the #PeytonHeartProject and #KindnessMatters to educate others about suicide awareness, mental health issues, and the dangers of bullying.  I also decided to contact those out there that Peyton continues to live on in through the gift of life.  This letter will be sent to each of his recipients.
Dear Recipient,

I hope that this letter finds you in good health and good spirits.  I also wanted to wish you, or at least a small part of you, a happy birthday.  Peyton would have been 16 this month, and I was hoping you would celebrate with me.

If Peyton were here today, he would be 16 years old.  If you are a Texas resident, you know that means that he would want to make a visit to the local DPS office to make an examiner white knuckle their way through his driver's test.  If he were to pass, then he would want a car.  Like most teenage boys, his desires would run from a bitchin' Camaro to a size compensating truck.  Unfortunately for him, he with his parent's combined income, he would be lucky to get a ten year old KIA with a trash bag for a rear window, duct tape patching the seat cushions, and an AM radio with at least one speaker blown.

Perhaps he would want to decorate it with bumper stickers saying "My other ride is a Tardis", "Keep Calm I'm The Doctor", "Team Negan", or "Rick Grimes for Sheriff".  I have no doubt that the insides would smell like donuts and chicken nuggets, the upholstery would be stained with chocolate milk and melted ice cream, and the passenger side floor mats would be littered with gum wrappers, empty peanut M&M bags and water bottles.  He would use his knowledge of electronics to hook up his phone to the radio in order to listen to music, or more likely, some hands free texting.  There would be several jackets in the back seat as he was always cold, and could never remember where he had left them, and each of those jackets would be covered with dog and cat hair.  He might have even put a Texas A&M sticker on it because of his desire to be a vet, but my Longhorn blood would not allow that in my driveway, and it would be unceremoniously scraped off.

I am sure he would offer rides to all that asked.  That's the kind of person he was.  He would always go out of his way in order to help others, even though he would know it is illegal for a young driver to have too many passengers, he was too good of a friend to exclude others.  That car would make many trips to the movies.  I am sure the new Wonder Woman and up coming Spider Man: Homecoming would be draws for him.  He would travel to the local Best Buy and Game Stop to check to the latest in computers and video games. I know it would also require trips to the library to check out books to quench his thirst for knowledge and the escape that reading offered.

Unlike most sixteen year old boys, he would not shy away from a birthday dinner with his family, especially if it meant watching the chefs prepare the meal directly at the table, but he may put up a little fuss when the desert came, and he had to share it with his little sister.  He may want a shopping spree for a present, but no Abercrombie or Hollister for him.  He would prefer clothes from Hot Topic or even Target where the graphic t-shirts of vintage video games and sriacha labels would fit his quirky outlook on life.

One thing Peyton would not want on his birthday is for any one to mourn him or be sad.  He would want people to be happy and to celebrate his life.  He would want you to give change to the bell ringer at Christmas or fill the boot of the fireman at the intersection.  He would want you to stop in the hall and help a stranger pick up the books and papers that they just dropped, even though no one else stopped.  He would want you to adopt every stay dog and cat you see, and in return, he would lovingly let them cuddle in his bed or wake him up in the morning as they shower him with kisses.  He would want you to enjoy the day doing something you loved whether it is sitting on the couch playing video games, eating donuts, or watching Dr. Who.  He would want you to tell bad jokes and laugh at them, or roll your eyes at my Dad jokes.  He would not want you to be sad that he is no longer with us, but for you to enjoy the chance that you have been given.

Recipients, today and every day,  are chances to live life to the fullest.  Pet a dog, blast away aliens, eat donuts, sit on the edge of your seat and see if Rick and Darrell can save the day, or just curl up with a cat on your lap and a book in your hands.  It is what I want, and I know it is what Peyton would want.  Take care of yourselves, and know that I pray for you every day, and that Peyton and I wish you nothing but the best.

Best Wishes,
David, Peyton's Daddy

Author's Note:  For all of you who read this, I want you to embody the same spirit as Peyton.  Go out today and smile at a stranger, hold a door for some one, or perform some random act of kindness, as it costs nothing to be a decent human being.  Most of all, consider becoming an organ donor so that you are able to live on and give some one a shot at life. Outlive yourself.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Way To Stay Classy Texas City High School

Show class, have pride, and display character. If you do, winning takes care of itself. -Paul "Bear" Bryant

It's been a rough couple of weeks for students and teachers here in Texas.  On Friday, May 12th, a teacher from Cypress Woods High School in the Houston area suburbs had taken her life.  I only found out because a friend of mine has a daughter that attends the school.  From what I understand, it was kept quiet at the request of the teacher's children.  The students were informed, counselors provided, and life went on.

Fast forward to this past Tuesday, the 23rd.  In the small town of  Kirbyville, Texas (population 2129), beloved High School Principal Dennis Reeves took his own life shortly after resigning his position in a meeting with Superintendent Tommy Wallis and an assistant superintendent.

From all accounts, Reeves was well liked and well respected in the small, East Texas community, and word of his death has been taken hard.  Comments on social media range from shock to dismay. Students, both former and current, tell stories of a man that cared deeply for and supported  his students.  Reeves wouldn't give up on them even when others, including themselves, had. Now there is a sense of loss in Kirbyville, and far too many unanswered questions.

But on Friday night, a breath of fresh air blew through Galveston county as Texas City High School honored one of their own.  On November 29, 2016, eighteen year old Brandy Vela of Texas City took her own life.  Her suicide was the result of months of relentless cyberbullying until Brandy could no longer take the harassment.  An investigation eventually lead to the arrests of two people, but not before leaving the close knit community wounded and hurting.

As parents and relatives, including the Vela family, filled the stand, and students filed into Stingaree Stadium and took their seats on the field, one seat was conspicuously empty. It was your run of the mill classroom chair, but unlike the others on the field, this one was draped in white with a blue ribbon.  It was placed there in memory of Brandy.  It was not an elaborate shrine, but a simple gesture by the students, faculty, and administration of Texas City High School to honor a fallen classmate.

When I posted the article from KTRK in Houston to my Facebook page,  I didn't realize how many responses I would get.  Throughout the day, the post received numerous Likes and other reactions.  Many congratulated the school for allowing this tribute, while far too many others lamented the fact that when they lost their child to suicide, their schools refused to even mention their child at graduation, allow them a memorial page in the year book, and others talked about how their child's memory was all but wiped from existence by the school as though they were an enemy of Stalin.

Throughout the state and country, suicide is still a dirty little secret that many are hesitant to talk about despite the fact that suicide has surpassed homicide as the second leading cause of death among teens.  The stigma surrounding mental illness, a contributing factor in 90% of suicides, still continues to keep people from coming forward and getting the help that they need.  The irony is not lost on the fact that schools will spend millions of dollars and countless hours to make sure students can pass a test spend almost no money and time to make sure the same students are alive to take it.

As the school year begins to wind down, as teachers enter grades for the last time, as students clean out lockers and return book, as seniors wait patiently for their name to be called for that long awaited walk across the stage, let us not forget those that won't be walking across, those that won't be turning to wave at their parents, do back flips, fist pump, smuggle beach balls and silly string under their robes, or throw their caps high in the air when they are bestowed with the title of graduate.  Way to stay classy Texas City High School.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Someone Has To Be A Bad Example

Last week, a  female student (let's call her Tootie) at College Park High School in The Woodlands, Texas was arrested for possessing and allegedly threatening to disseminate the photos another girl (we shall call her Eloise), also a student at College Park.  As a result, Tootie could have been charged with a felony for possessing child pornography because Eloise is 17 and a minor.  However,"because of the growing trend of young people in Texas taking and sharing nude photos – sometimes without the consent of the person depicted in the photo – state lawmakers in 2011 created a misdemeanor charge called 'electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting minor,' or 'sexting,'"  of Tootie faces the Class B misdemeanor charge of electronic transmission of certain visual material depicting minor. The misdemeanor charge carries the possibility of up to six months in jail and a possible $2,000 fine if convicted.  I have no doubt that there was the usual victim shaming saying that Eloise either took, or allowed others to take the pictures, so she shouldn't be complaining abut some one sending them out. Then there are others that want to form a posse and distribute some good ol' fashioned frontier justice at the end of a rope.  Some sit back and pretend not to care, and others that tote the company line saying, "we need to let the investigation play out."  As for me, I want the investigators to be aggressive, but objective.  I want no stone left unturned, and no loop hole left open, no witness left silent.  In the end, if the allegations prove to be true, then I would like to see the case brought to court, prosecuted, and if convicted, Tootie  should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.  I'm talking about throwing the book at her, locking her up and throwing away the key, and letting her sit in jail for the entirety of her sentence.

Now there are those out there that may think I am too strict, harsh, or mean. That a harsh consequence would ruin the Tootie's life. That she just made a mistake That she didn't know what she was doing. It was just the one time. She's just a kid. It'll never happen again, cross her heart and hope to die and pinkie swear.  Okay, so what?  Many in society, especially those of us that have lost a loved one to bullying and harassment are sick and  tired of the same old excuses.  We are tired of seeing children buried and families torn apart while the bully gets a slap on the wrist, or less.  We are tired of seeing our child blamed for what happened to them.  We are tired of watching a tormentor walk free while we have only memories left to cling to.  We are tired of school administrators, police, and prosecutors not doing the job that our tax dollars pay them to do.  We are tired of seeing those same people take the path of least resistance rather than putting themselves on the line for the one's that can no longer speak for themselves.  Many will tell me they are sorry about my son, and that what happened to him should not happen to anyone, that some one should have to pay, but in the same breath tell me that Tootie should not have to be the one to suffer.

There are those that may ask "Why Tootie? Why make an example out of her?"  To that I reply, "Why not.  Some one has to be the example, so it might as well be Tootie." I am not talking about putting her head on a pike, or clapping her in the stocks, or even a public flogging.  I just want people to know that this type of behavior is harmful to people, and if you choose to partake, then there are consequences involved.  "But this is her first offense, " or perhaps it is just the first time that she was caught.  "But why Tootie? She has such a bright future in front of her.' So did Peyton, and Issac and David and so many others before people like Tootie and her ilk took it upon themselves to ruin their lives. Was Tootie sure that when she began her torment she checked to make sure that Eloise wasn't dealing with a mental health issue.  Because if she did, she might also realize that 90% of people that complete suicide are dealing with an underlying mental health issue, and that on average about 1 in 5 teens deal with some sort of mental health issue.  I am sure that those who hope for a lighter sentence feel that, "If Tootie gets probation, then she promises never ever to do it again,"  But I think that after six months behind bars, and two grand lighter in the wallet, Tootie would really think twice about threatening to send out some one's naked picture in a group text.

I am sure there are the bleeding hearts out there that don't want to see poor Tootie do any time in lock up or have to pay a penny out of pocket.  After all, she just made one little mistake, and she shouldn't have to pay for it with her future.  I guess Tootie should have thought about that before she held Eloise hostage with the threat to release the picture.  Eventually Tootie did send the picture to two male students. I am sure the bleeding hearts are thinking, "It's just one little picture, and she only sent it to two boys."  Just take a step back.  Did those two boys share it with any one?  Did they show the picture to others, or did they share the picture with others?  I don't care if they said they didn't, teens lie to save themselves all the time.  How do they know that right now, some 45 year old troll living in his mother's basement in New Jersey isn't enjoying that picture?  What if it was your daughter, or sister, or even you that the troll is thinking about?  Does that change your opinion? I guarantee that if it was my daughter's picture, I would be pushing for the felony charge, and not a misdemeanor, and the safest place for Tootie would be jail.

Eloisie, if you took the picture, or allowed it to be taken, don't think you are off the hook either.  If you did indeed take the picture, or allowed the picture to be taken, then you, my dear, are a dumbass. Seriously, what the hell were you thinking?  Did you take it for the special boy in your life?  Big mistake.  Do not trust a teenage boy, or any male of the human species. They will lie to you to get what they want, promise that it will be a special secret for just the two of you, and then brag to anyone they can find about what they did, and there is a good chance they will embellish what happened to look that much better in the eyes of their friends. Then they will send it to every one of his slimy little friends that asks for it to God only knows what as they stare at it.   Or maybe, you and your friends were playing around and thought it would be funny.  The picture was taken with the promise that it would be deleted, but oops, some one forgot to delete it, and the next thing you know, the picture is making its way around the world. You have to remember dear Eloise that in today's digital age, nothing is every really gone, and the delete button may not save you.

Tootie will appear in court for arraignment on May 31, 2017.  Let us hope that the judge, the District Attorney and all those involved decide that the time has come to hold Tootie accountable.  After all, someone has to be a bad example.

Author's Note- Last week people around the world were stunned and horrified by the story of eight year old Gabriel Taye of Cincinnati.  Gabriel took his life two days after another student, slammed him into a wall and knocked him unconscious then proceeded to dance around as though he scored the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.  The school district never bothered to tell his mother the truth until AFTER the police investigated.  The time to hold the bullies, and if necessary, their parents, and in this case, the school accountable has come.  For too long, too many have turned a blind eye to this, and the time of reckoning has come.  Sorry Tootie.  

Monday, May 8, 2017

Reasons Why I Watched 13 Reasons Why

I hope you're ready, because I'm about to tell you the story of my life. More specifically, why my life ended. - Hannah Baker, 13 Reasons Why

I watch Netflix, a lot.  I first began shortly after I married Lisa so we could watch Friday Night Lights without me having to ask who each character was.  Over time, I used to watch the occasional movie, and then I began to binge whole seasons of Breaking Bad, and I was hooked.  I was a Netflix junkie when I discovered Orange Is The New Black.  Then came Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. Even now I get excited thinking about The Defenders.  Yep, I'm hooked.

My wife will tell you that I waste a lot of time investing in characters like Walter White, Jessie Pinkman, and Saul Goodman; however, I feel it is time well spent.  

When looking for a new series to invest, or waste, my time in, I came across the trailer for a new Netflix series called 13 Reasons Why.  When I realized that the series was about a young girl that takes her life it piqued my interest.  When I heard it proclaim that Selena Gomez was the executive producer, I took pause.  My only true recollection of her work was one of the typical Disney shows where the adults are all idiots, the kids are all smartasses, and the script seems to be written by a room full of chimps banging away on keyboards when they take a break from throwing their feces at each other.  When I thought about watching 13 Reasons Why, all I could picture was the After School Specials from the 70's.  I was even prepared for Scott Baio and Kristy McNichol to play the concerned parents, and Kirk Cameron to play the hip, but understanding, teacher.  However, after the series dropped and positive reviews started to come in, especially from my students, I decided spend some time watching at least the first few episodes.  

The first episode piqued my interest.  It take place at the fictional Liberty High School, and was filled with the stereotypes that one would expect to find in a show about high school. You have the arrogant jocks, dumb jocks, and quiet sensitive jocks.  You have the nerdy kid who likes science fiction and rides his bike everywhere.  You have the high achieving Asian student.  You have the angry, heavily tattooed student who administers sage advice.  You have the rebellious, yet sensitive, bad boy with a cop for a father.  You have the openly gay intellectual.  You have the creepy stalker with the camera. You have the Yoda-esque hoodlum from the wrong side of the tracks. You have the weaselly  principal more concerned with the school's reputation.  You have the clueless, coddling parents, teachers, and counselors.  And of course you have the pretty girl from the good family whose suicide is the focal point of the series.  

It took several episodes for the show to really get going, but once it did, I was in for the long run and finished the series.  While I will never say 13 Reasons Why is a great show, it does carry a powerful message.  Yes, there are some substantial issues with the show, but you can read about them here, here, and here.  I am not here to talk about the problems, but to applaud the show itself.  For all of the faults within the show itself, the one thing that stands out to me is that it had the balls, gumption, wherewithal, and nerve to tackle an issue that far too many in our society still consider a taboo subject.  

The series revolves around Clay Jensen, the aforementioned bike riding nerd who receives 13 audio cassettes recorded by the now deceased Hannah Cook.  Each of the tapes is dedicated to one of the students that have led Hannah to take her life.  There is the typical teen angst, but also sexual harassment, bullying, and cyber bullying, homosexuality, drug and alcohol abuse, and even rape.  The kids are kids, they are nice to each other when they need something, they treat each other like sh*t when they don't, and are more interested in saving their own asses when ever the situation calls for it.  

Clay relives the pivotal moments of Hannah's last few months through her narration. He discovers just how horribly his classmates treat each other, but especially Hannah.  How an innocent date with a boy turns Hannah into a slut. How the law of unintended consequences applies to an act of revenge towards another student and brings Hannah unwanted attention and harassment.  How stress at home took it's toll on Hannah.  How rejection and betrayal sent Hannah even further down the rabbit hole. How those that are there to protect failed Hannah, and how one person, enabled by status and money, could commit an act so heinous that became the breaking point for Hannah.  

Clay's anger toward the others on the tapes grows and festers as he wants justice brought for Hannah, but the others try and try to cover up, get their stories straight, and hide the truth. Even the depiction of Hannah slitting her wrists is deemed "too graphic" by some.  I'm sorry, but at what point did running a razor down your wrists become and object d'art?  If she had used a shot gun, or hung herself, it would have been just as bad.  

While it is true that there were several swings and misses, mainly the absence of any issues of mention of mental health issues that factor into 90% of all suicides. 13 Reasons Why touches on several key factors such as the overwhelming stress kids feel today in school. How the desire to fit in and belong can outweigh every other aspect of a child's life.  How repeated cruelty and rejection can push a person over the edge.  How bottled up feelings can cause so much pain that the person feels no other recourse but to take the final step.  Even how schools slathering the walls with suicide prevention posters AFTER a suicide is about as worthless as travel brochures in a coffin.  Some schools have even gone as far as to forbid students from talking about 13 Reasons Why at school.  

Despite all the negatives, there are some positives that come along with the series.  First and foremost, it has people talking, especially its intended audience, teens.  As I go through social media, I see entry after entry regarding 13 Reasons Why, and see real conversations coming from it.  Kids are openly and honestly discussing their problems and issues openly. Michigan's Oxford High School is setting up their 13 Reasons Why Not program in order to open up and shed a light on suicide and mental health issues.  All of these are good and needed.  

If you have read any of my blogs, you know that I advocate for education and awareness for suicide awareness and prevention.  Sadly, it was Netflix, and not schools or parents that stepped up and took the lead.  For good or bad, 13 Reasons Why was needed as suicide moved up to the  #2 cause of death for 13-24 year olds in our country.  So the decision is yours dear reader.  You can choose to watch 13 Reasons Why and be offended or enlightened, but the decision will be yours.  But please, form an opinion and put that opinion out there for others to see.  Perhaps by voicing your opinion, some one might feel compelled to talk about their problems, and get the help they need.  These are the reasons why I watched 13 Reasons Why.