Netflix's recent series titled "13 Reasons Why" (TV-MA), which is based on author Jay Asher's 2007 novel by the same title, is about a high school senior named Hannah Baker who took her own life as a result of several instances that occurred to her over a short period of time. The book-turned-series outlines 13 reasons that lead to Hannah's decision to end her life — reasons that she recorded on tapes that were distributed to classmates whom she cited as factors in her fateful decision.
While thought-provoking and well-intended, unlike what was portrayed in the book/series, most who decide to leave this life don't do so after having left a clearly outlined explanation naming names and stating why. According to the American Psychological Association, only 15 to 38 percent of people who die by suicide leave even a single note.
Instead, they disappear almost as quietly as they came, leaving many behind to wonder why, wishing they'd been given a chance to say something that might have caused their sister, brother, mother, father, cousin, niece or friend to stay.
While there are several reasons behind each person's suicide, there is another side to this coin. There are reasons why not.
As a suicide survivor, having lost my older sister 10 years ago, I have thought many times over what I would have said or done that might cause her to stay. And while I realize that my words and actions may not have made a difference, they may also have.
It is the hope that the reasons shared below — reasons given by those who have been affected by suicide — will also be cause enough for those contemplating suicide to pause before choosing to leave.
Todd Bulloch lost his 16-year old niece and says that he would want her to stay to realize her potential.
"Teenage years are super difficult, and with an added bout with any depression makes it seem impossible," he said. "But it's not impossible. Battling and surviving through these times make us stronger and more prepared to take on life's future challenges. We learn joy through fighting through the toughest times. Stay for your potential to be amazing, your potential to change the world and save someone else."
After years of struggling with depression and, as a result, prescription pill addiction, Rachel Derting's older brother took his own life when he was 21.
Derting knew her brother was hurting, and he only wanted the pain to go away. However, while his pain may have subsided, her brother leaving, she said, caused more hurt and agony for those he left behind.
"I'm sure he thought he was doing us a favor, but it crushed my family," she said. "It seems like it takes the pain away but it doesn't; it transfers the pain to everyone who loved you and magnifies it by 100. I wish he would have known that nothing he did was going to make us stop loving him or give up on him. It's a clichè, but whatever terrible thing is happening, it won't last forever but the pain your family and friends feel will."
Melanie Hardle lost her younger brother who was a husband and brand-new father. She expressed a love for him that was shared by my family and friends alike, and wanted her brother to know that in a life that feels out of control, that he had more control than he thought.
"You have more control than you realize," she said. "You can't always change other people, but you can change how you move forward. Sometimes having the courage to make the change in yourself will give you the confidence you need to overcome whatever is wrong. You can overcome whatever you choose. It'll be hard, but you can do it."
Phil Heywood lost his wife and mother of their three children. He offered the following heartfelt reason why she should have stayed.
"The reason I would give is so that we can continue to build and grow our eternal family together, in love and peace," he said. "To raise our children in a family unit and help them through life's experiences, both happy and sad. I would tell her, 'You are needed. Please don't go.'"
Matt Van Horn lost his older sister when she was just 42 years old. After several family challenges, prescription drug addiction and what he described as a debilitating struggle with lupus, she decided life was too much to bear. Even with those trials, Van Horn believes it was possible for his sister to stay.
"Life changes and 15 years later she could have been changed with it," he said. "She could have transcended and come through the other side, injured and scarred, but healed eventually, and more wise and secure.
"Toward the end she was a wilting flower — beauty and color and life drained from her. I would like to have held her tight, cried with her, told her how valuable she is to me. I would have told her to have faith in the future when good things would come around again."
Wendy Parmley lost her mother when she, the oldest of five children, was 12 years old. Parmley had no choice but to move on without her mother, but it wasn't without a tremendous amount of heartache.
"Two months ago, while frantically shopping for wedding dresses with my daughter, I thought back to my own wedding," she said. "My grandma, my dad's mom, hobbled with me to the local Zion's department store to help me choose a dress. Up the escalator we went, and I tried on dresses one after the other —showing them to my grandma for approval. It was surreal. I was a young 19-year-old and didn't know the first thing about marriage. I missed my mom. And I wished she could be there for that big day. That was not the first, nor would it be the last, big day. In just the first eight years after her death, Mom missed many big days. My state debate championship, my high school graduation, my trip to Europe, my wedding, and the birth of my first son.
"Mom, as much as you might have felt you were failing as a mother, you were the only one I wanted to shop with me for my wedding dress. You missed so much. And I missed you!"
Four years ago, Monique Rubio's younger sister took her life at just 12 years old. Rubio wants her sister and those with similar struggles to know of their potential.
"If I could give my sister a reason to stay, it would be by letting her know how she has positively impacted so many lives, even in the short time she was here," she said. "I remember this one boy in particular. He sent us a card telling us that if it weren't for my sister, he probably wouldn't be alive right now. He said that she smiled at him every single day in the hall.
"My sister touched more lives than we could ever comprehend. She probably never would have cured cancer or toured the world performing for millions. But she would have helped give the world a little bit of light and her kind heart would have resulted in a million smiles."
Blair Einfeldt lost his older sister, who was the oldest child in his family and wife and mother of three. He recalled doing all he could with the knowledge he had at the time, but says he wishes that he could have somehow conveyed to her she was important.
"I listened to (my sister) talk about her problems, and her issues with self-worth and I think in hindsight much of it came from an overwhelming feeling that she wasn't taking care of her kids — that I know wasn't true but for whatever reason, she didn't know that. I wish I would have expressed to her how important she was to her children and try to do more praising of what a truly great mother and strong woman she was."
Jean Thomas lost her son when he was just 20 years old, and says that if she could talk to him, she would try to better help him understand his role in their family as a son, brother and uncle. She would like him to know how much he is needed and how much of a blessing he is to their family.
Thomas also wanted her son and those contemplating suicide know that during this time of darkness, that it isn't "you."
"I believe that whoever commits this act is not who that person is," she said. "When (my son) pulled that trigger I know that was not him and as soon as he did it he realized the wrong that was done. He had a zest for life but those ugly moments were not him."
Gwen Denmark's brother took his life at the age of 30 after enduring kidney failure, and needing to be on dialysis and many medications with side effects that included "suicidal thoughts." Denmark described her brother as a tall, handsome, athletic and very capable man, who due to his trial, began experiencing anxiety and overwhelming thoughts as a result of his medications.
"I would have told him to not be ashamed of how he was feeling," she said. "He wanted to appear that things were 'perfect' — at least not having to deal with a mental illness. I would have told him that family is family. That we are here for each other regardless of how tough things get. I would have told him to have a louder voice — that when he didn't feel right, that he could have screamed as loud as he needed to scream in order to get the help he needed. I would tell him that we all want him here. That none of us are under the umbrella of perfection and that we all understand."
Chelsea Rowan was 18 when she lost her older brother, who was a husband and father of three. Rowan was much younger than him at the time, but as a wife and parent herself now, has since had experiences that she wishes she could share with her brother.
"With the benefit of hindsight I would tell him how many of our family members would have ached to know him," she said. "My own husband doesn't even know him, let alone my kids or many of his nieces and nephews. I remember being at the wedding of his oldest child and feeling so cheated on his behalf because his dad missed out on this beautiful moment in mortality. We all felt his hole so keenly in our lives that day. I would have told my brother that he would leave a hole so large and irrevocably empty that our entire family would feel it for generations."
Darleen Loch's 16-year-old son, the family's fourth child of five, took his life in 2015 after struggling for years with a challenge his family didn't understand but tried tirelessly to do so.
"We did what we could, trying everything we knew to do, but in the end, we decided to let go and let God," she said. "Your child is a part of your heart. When they are gone, you miss them. Oh, my gosh, how you miss them. There will always be an open place that nobody can fill, that comes with a recurring heartache that only God can heal."
Heath Wentzel did not lose a loved one to suicide, but nearly lost his own life after driving his car toward the Snake River in his own suicide attempt.
Wentzel, who was 24, a husband and father of two at the time, had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts for years, and coupled with a difficult career path that made life unbearable, he decided one day that he'd had enough.
"I was driving down I-20 on my way back to Rexburg (Idaho) from work when I decided to turn the wheel towards the Snake River just before the bridge so that I would take my 1998 Dodge Durango into it and it would finally be over," he recalled. "As I was in mid-air, time seemed to suddenly stop and all I could think of was my family and how much they needed me. I saw our two small children, Elisabeth was 2 and Ethan was just about 8 months old. What seems so dumb to many others became so real to me. I needed to live and wanted to get help to become a better person. I wanted to make my life better and be a light to others who are out there who needed the same help that I needed. RELIEF! I not only wanted to live at that point I needed to live so that I could make sure to help stop the needless suicides/attempts."
Wentzel survived his attempt with only a few scrapes. He was soon diagnosed with bipolar disorder and joined a support group with others in the area that had survived experiences like his own. He now has a new lease on life, choosing to live life to the fullest.
"I choose to live because I am valuable, because I have worth — not just generically through God, but for my friends and family," he said. "I choose to live because if I die, those who were so terrible to me through the years would win and my value goes down. I choose to live because I need my family as much as they need me."
If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, don't be afraid to get help. You are loved. You are cared for. You are worth it. Everything will be OK.