Netflix is currently offering a series, titled “13 Reasons Why”, a story of a high school girl who commits suicide, leaving 13 recorded tapes for the 13 people who helped cause her suicide. The series has received critical acclaim and commercial success, as it addresses several important topics: mistreatment by others (including bullying), teenage depression, and suicide.
If you were born in the 1990s, you have a higher risk of developing a depression than if you were born in the 1980s. If you were born in the decade of the 2000s, you have a high risk of depression than if you were born in the 1990s. The prevalence of depression is rising with each decade. By 2030, it will be the number one diagnosis in the world. Worse, suicides are also rising.
What is causing this rising tide of depression and suicide? There are researchers who blame the chemicals, contaminants, and toxins in the world – from air / food / water – as possible culprits, claiming that those elements are disrupting the normal functioning of the chemistry in the brain. After all, over the past 50 years, we have created 77,000 new chemicals – and they are everywhere.
For me, the reason is much simpler. We are living in a much tougher world. For the child, adolescent, and young adult, the world can be extremely stressful. In addition to the constant scrutiny (and increased competitiveness) from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media sources, there seems to be a decrease in the level of tolerance.
On the surface, the youth seem to have a greater acceptance of different groups and different sexual orientations, but strangely they seem to be almost ‘meaner’ on a 1:1 personal level. If you take those personal negative interactions, especially as you are growing up, and add them to the chaotic, always changing world that awaits a young adult, you find yourself with a problematic equation.
I disagree with one of the sentiments of the “13 Reasons Why” series, as I do not believe anyone can ‘make’ you kill yourself. That is an individual decision with responsibility to one person – the person who commits suicide. Yes, people can treat your poorly. Yes, they can actively push you toward depression. Yes, even your ‘friends’ can fail to rescue you when you are quietly screaming for help. But the decision is still yours, not theirs.
In this series, the girl decides she has one solution: she can have the final say, telling each one of them what they have done and how they have contributed to her demise. She also has the chance to offer the underlying message that we need to treat each other better. We need to be better people. We need to be better friends – real friends.
For me, there are several messages that are missed. There are several lessons that remain hidden. Maybe they will be addressed in season #2 for this series. From my perspective, there are hidden lessons for your personal life and hidden lessons for your future professional life. These lessons are crucial for your emotional health and stability – and crucial for your happiness and success.
For your personal life, today’s young person needs to make an ongoing effort for personal development and increased personal strength. There are too many negative forces against you, pulling you in the wrong directions. There are many ways to develop more personal strength. New experiences. Time away from your normal routine. Personally, I recommend more reading. A good novel can teach you about personal strength. But nonfiction books, especially personal development books and/or biographies, can teach you the pathway to strength.
Let me ask: When did you last read a novel? When did you last read a biography or autobiography? When did you last read some book on personal growth? Those books can teach you the skill set to survive against negative personal interactions. If you read about someone else’s trials, you can learn from their insights. You can learn from their personal growth. Simply put – read and you can grow stronger.
The same lesson applies to your professional life. Look at the current statistics. The average adult, entering the work force, will likely have 5-7 careers, not just 5-7 jobs. And each job will constantly change, repeatedly demanding new skills. So, what can you do? You must become a lifelong learner. You must become a lifelong reader. You must get stronger, better, and more educated.
A friend of mine has the following perspective. You learn to read in grade school; you learn to write in high school; and you learn to ‘learn’ in college. But you must continue the ‘learning’ on your own if you are going to remain employed, effective in your position, and successful in your career(s). That is reality.
Here is my final point. To be happy and successful in both your personal life and your professional career, you must follow the same tenets. You must learn how to believe in yourself. You must learn how to deflect the opinions, good and bad, of others. You must focus on what you give to others, not what you get from others. You must grow as a person. You must constantly expand your own personal and professional skill set. You must become a better person. That growth is your real challenge.
And if you follow all the above suggestions, will life be easy?
No, but it will be much better, personally and professionally …
So, give those suggestions a chance …