Several years ago, Netflix released the suicide-focused, teenage drama series “13 Reasons Why.”
Several studies came out later documenting a significant increase in the suicide rate among U.S. youth ages 10 to 17, after 13 Reasons Why originally premiered in March 2017.
Your kids, like mine, may not have been allowed to watch this show. Even so, its popularity gave parents a stark reminder that suicide is a real issue our kids face. It is a problem we cannot afford to ignore.
In recent years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed suicide as the third leading cause of death for American youth between the ages of 10 and 24. Even more recently, the CDC reported that one-in-four young adults has contemplated suicide during the COVID pandemic.
September is National Suicide Prevention month. It is a critical time to be intentional in having discussions with our kids surrounding this topic. We must take every opportunity to replace the underlying lies of suicide with the truth that every person has invaluable purpose and value.
The “13 Reasons Why Not,” listed below, are intended to be a starting point in discussing the value of your children’s lives. Many of us avoid the topic, thinking it’s not an issue with which our kids struggle, or even that it might give them ideas if they are struggling. But the above referenced statistics remind us that we no longer have a choice. We must address this issue head-on, especially in light of this pandemic.
Take a minute to talk to your kids about suicide. Share this article with them, cut out the “13 Reasons Why Not,” and put it on their bathroom mirror, in their car, or anywhere else that feels right.
Do whatever feels natural in talking to your kids, but please do something to help them navigate these difficult waters.
Here are 13 reasons why not:
1. There is hope.
No doubt, life can be hard. But in the hard times, there is always hope, because there is purpose and significance bigger than the things we can see at this exact moment. Today may have its share of problems, but there is hope in Jesus, because he loves us and created us with great plans for our lives.
“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.” — Psalm 71:5
2. You are loved.
Feeling unloved is just that — a feeling. The truth is that we are loved by friends, family, and, most importantly, Jesus. There will always be people who don’t like us or treat us in a way that makes us feel unloved. Surround yourself with the truth of those who do love you and want the very best for your life. They are all around you.
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” — 1 John 3:1
3. You have a place.
Everyone needs to know they have a place and belong, yet we all struggle with feeling like we don’t sometimes. Remember that we belong to families who love us, churches that need us, and teams and groups that value us. We are a part of the body of Christ, and we belong to Jesus, with a profound place in his family.
“Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” — Psalm 100:3
4. Your current situation is not forever.
It’s easy to feel like the current circumstances in our lives are never going to change. But what you are facing today most likely will not have any real significance in your life a year from now. When we understand that God is for us and has great plans for us, we can know that the hard places we face today will not last forever. We have great days ahead.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 29:11
5. There is light in this world.
When we feel like everything around us is dark and negative, we have to remember who the light is. Jesus is the light of the world and brings hope in the dark places that seem hopeless. The things of this world can be hard and often seem hopeless. Run to the true light of Jesus, who has overcome the things of this world.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no ones who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
6. You are stronger than you think.
“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” That’s Christopher Robins to Winnie the Pooh. It may seem like those around us are stronger or more capable than we are, but God’s power in our life is unmatchable. You have strength in areas that others don’t because God uniquely created you. We are braver, stronger, and more capable simply because we don’t walk alone in this world. The Spirit of God works in our lives, strengthening and guiding us.
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” — Philippians 4:13
7. There is help.
We weren’t meant to live life alone or deal with hard times by ourselves. God has gifted counselors, doctors, therapists, and many others to help us in the difficult times. Don’t struggle alone when there are so many around us who would jump at the opportunity to help. Pray for courage to speak up, reach out to your family, stop by the counselor, call a suicide prevention line, or tell a friend of your struggles. You do not have to walk the road alone when there is help.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” — Psalm 46:1
8. You are fearfully and wonderfully made.
It’s easy to feel like you’re surrounded by people who are smarter, better looking, more popular, more athletic . . . you name it. But God’s Word is clear that he perfectly created us in our mother’s womb. Although you won’t always feel it, God made not one mistake in your design, and you are perfectly created in the image of God.
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” — Psalm 139:13–14
9. You are needed.
You are alive today for a reason. God has plans for us to accomplish on his behalf, for his greater kingdom. You are invaluable to your family, your church, your friendships, and everywhere you go. A great lie of the enemy is that nobody needs us or that we won’t be missed if we are gone. Wrong. You have a great purpose in this life, and you are not only valued, you are needed.
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” — Ephesians 2:10
10. You can have joy.
Happiness is temporary. We can be happy one minute and completely depressed or angry the next. But joy doesn’t depend on our circumstances—it comes from knowing that God loves us, died so that we can live, and that he will ultimately defeat and conquer all evil on our behalf. Even when our circumstances are hard, we can rejoice in a God who never leaves us or forsakes us. God is always good, and he is for us. Choose joy!
“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” — Psalm 30:5
11. There’s a bigger picture.
Literally. Life’s picture is much bigger than the pictures on social media. It’s tempting to compare someone’s best day on social media to the hard places we are experiencing at the same time in our own lives. The pictures on social don’t tell the full story, and we are not the only ones living in the hard places of life. When Jonah sat in the belly of a whale, he didn’t see the bigger picture of how God was going to spare his life and use him to save an entire nation of people. We can’t always see today what God’s working on for tomorrow.
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” — Philippians 1:6
12. Don’t make permanent decisions based on temporary feelings.
Your story is far from finished. What seems like the end of the road today won’t feel that way forever. Suicide is making a lasting, no-turning-back decision, without considering all the information and without the perspective of knowing God’s greater plans for your life and the hope he brings. You are loved. You are valued. You matter.
“The thief comes only to steal kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” — John 10:10
13. If God allows it, he can use it.
The hardest times in our lives often become our biggest faith stories. The Lord takes our really tough times and uses them for his good. Our struggles allow God to humble us, to show us his comfort, to give us compassion for others, to teach us to pray, and to help us learn to rely on him. You can’t know the great impact your hard day today may have on countless people tomorrow. If God allows it, start praying now for how he’s going to use it.
“Count it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” — James 1:2–3
Cynthia Yanof is the Brand Manager of ChristianParenting.org. She and her husband Mike have a high schooler (Kate), a middle schooler (Brett), and a preschooler (J.B.). She was an attorney for many years, but is now blessed with the opportunity to write and podcast for Christian Parenting. Cynthia is passionate about Jesus, her family, foster care, keeping it real, and serving the Lord. She loves having people in her home and spending time with her friends.