“13 Reasons Why Not:” Students launch unique program to show that “mental disorders are real”

DELHI, New York — Students at a school in New York wanted to help their classmates dealing with mental health issues, so they launched a unique program inspired by the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”

“It’s a huge problem, not just at Delaware Academy, but everywhere,” a student said.

It’s no secret that walking the halls at high schools across the country can be difficult.

“One of the most common issues that I’ve noticed so far is mostly, there’s a lot of depression and self harm especially. There’s been a lot of instances this year where it’s just been, the issue has increased this year significantly,” Julia Burns said.

People often opt to avoid talking about suicide or mental health. That’s why students at Delaware Academy proposed the project: “13 Reasons Why Not.” They got the idea from a student at a school in Michigan.

“I messaged her and I was like ‘hey, can we use this proposal? Like, we’re having really big issues with suicide and depression and anxiety at our school. We really need to get something going,'” Kaitlynn Finch said.

School officials were immediately on board.

“This is really student driven, and I feel honored that they came to me with the idea and, you know what — let’s run with it,” Jason Thomson, superintendent said.

Here’s how it works:

Each day for 13 days, a volunteer shares a memory or struggle they’ve overcome over the loudspeaker during morning announcements at the school. Instead of blaming someone for their struggles, they say “thank you” to someone for being one of their “13 Reasons Why Not.”

The students who created this program said so far, the feedback has been positive.

“On Tuesday, I did like, my story, and since then, a lot of people have said ‘that was really awesome.’ Like, ‘good for you. You got up there,'” Julia Burns said.

And it’s not just students. Teachers are sharing their stories too.

“It makes us human. It’s the human factor, I think. Then they don’t see you as the person that’s going to assign homework and wants to keep tabs on you, and it makes us seem real. It adds a punch to the — ‘I’ve been in your shoes,'” Michelle Hasselbarth, teacher said.

The end goal of this program is to show students that help is out there.

“We need to end the stigma and we need to make everyone aware that mental health is real and disorders are real. Depression is real. Anxiety is real, and it needs to be taken seriously,” Kaitlynn Finch said.

“Enough’s enough. We have to show our students and tell our students that we care and that we love them,” Superintendent Thomson said.

This program started on Monday, May 22nd and will continue through the final 13 days of the school year.