The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why is still making waves nearly a month after its release due to its sensitive yet powerful nature. However, one high school is choosing not to glorify Hannah Baker's 13 reasons she took her own life and is instead having students make "tapes" for classmates that have been one of their "13 reasons why not."
Oxford High School in Oxford, MI, has unfortunately faced the aftermath of suicide before; in May 2013, 15-year-old Megan Abbott killed herself in a wooded area behind the school. In memory of Megan, the dean of the school, Pam Fine, came up with the "13 reasons why not" project after watching the Netflix show.
"I watched the series. I thought it accurately depicted the problems that teenagers in high school are facing now. But it was incredibly troubling to me that suicide was portrayed as being, almost, inevitable, like she had no other option," Fine told the Oakland Press. "The idea was to come up with 13 reasons why not, because that was not portrayed in the show. . . . Even though it can get very dark, there is always hope. Our message is that there are no 13 reasons why. Suicide is not an option."
Since May 1, recordings of students at Oxford have played after the morning announcements. On the "tapes," a student shares their struggles and issues they've faced, and rather than blaming someone at the end for doing wrong to them, they reveal a person that has helped them through it.
Senior Riley Juntti was the first student to go, and because no one knew about Fine's secret project, students were surprised but humbled by Riley's bravery and honesty. "Worthless. Self-centered. No morals. Easy. Grimy. Cake face. You would be better off dead. That's just the start of what you would label me as every day for two years," Juntti said in her recording. "This tape is for you, Elise Godfrey. You saw me when no one else did and continued to listen, share, and appreciate the small things with me. Thank you for your kindness I cannot repay. You are one of my 13 reasons why not."
By using the momentum the popular show created in highlighting mental illness, Fine has created a whirlwind in encouraging open communication — students have been writing out their stories for her in the hope that one of their 13 reasons why not could be featured over the morning announcements. "It was a risk, and it's paid off," she said. "I'm incredibly thankful for the response."
Megan Abbott's younger sister Morgan is now a junior at Oxford, and Fine says she created the project not only for Megan, but for Morgan as well. The girls' mom, Amy Hafeli, is fully supportive. "I thought it was a wonderful idea," she said. "It brought a positive spin on something so negative. . . . I'm proud of the school for getting involved and for putting that message out there — not just when it happens, but being proactive about it. Because, once it happens, what can you do? You can't bring the kid back."
Hafeli and Morgan both commented that they wished Megan could have been around to hear the messages. "I think if Megan had something like this going on in school when she was there, we would have had more time with her," Morgan said.