What You Should Know about "13 Reasons Why"

“Did you like [13 Reasons Why]?” she asked. “I don’t think this is a show you can like,” I said. “But it’s powerful. Whoa.”

What you need to know about 13 reasons why

I’m not sure anyone can truly like a series that includes bullying, rape, and suicide. But they can certainly be moved by it. Touched. Impacted. Changed. Awakened.

If the goal of 13 Reasons Why is to start a conversation, they succeeded. There are questions from this series that beg to be asked. Conversations that demand attention. The show pokes holes in the unfortunately common public school administration, shows how harmful an ineffective high school counselor can be, sheds light on the toxicity of the jock environment that thrives in many high schools, and urges parents to not shy away from uncomfortable conversations with their kids.

The Most Important Question

Clay Jensen’s character asked a common question after suicide, “Did I kill Hannah Baker?” We all want to know if we contributed to their pain. Everyone wonders if there’s something they did that contributed to the end of a person’s life, or something they should have done to save it. But I think there’s a question that’s even more important.

The show demands that we, every single one of us, become proactive in asking, “Who am I killing?”

Who am I killing? With my words? With my actions? With my inaction? All of our lives are sermons. We are all preachers. Whether we have a faith or not, we’re all selling something. Even  the Bible encourages us to be “living epistles.”

What message are we sending to the world? Is our sermon that physical beauty is the ultimate goal? Are we preaching a message that women only exist to meet the desires of men? Do we shout to the world that athleticism creates heroes and might makes right? What’s our sermon to our neighbors, our children, our students, ourselves?

A Message to Parents

Don’t assume, just because your child (or loved one) seems to have it all together, that they aren’t secretly dying inside. In my own situation, I was faking it. Faking life, faking confidence, faking that everything was okay. No one - not my best friend, not my mother, my pastor, or any of my teachers - knew the depths of my despair.

No one knew when I wrote suicide notes for the first time at the age of 19. I sat on my bed in my parents’ basement and had it all planned out. I would end my life the same way my Aunt did, with a garden hose, hooked to the exhaust. No one suspected the church youth leader and class president longed to die because he was so ashamed of his own childhood sexual abuse. No one felt the dampness of my tear-soaked pillow as I begged God, night after night, to take my pain away.

Final Warning & Challenge

13 Reasons Why is needed. It is a phenomenal opening dialogue to a discussion many are desperate to have. But the show, by itself, could also be incredibly harmful. I would not allow any child to watch this alone. I wouldn’t want any adolescent to view this series without adult supervision. And in fact, I would highly encourage parents to sit and watch this with their children.

But don’t leave it there. Have the conversations. Ask the questions. Sit with the tension. Let the sorrow and anger and turmoil wash over you. Be drawn in by the voices of depression and angst, shame and despair. Let yourself be present with those you care about. And don’t you dare walk away from the experience without asking your loved ones if there is anything they need to talk about.


  1. Crisis Text Line - If you are immediately concerned about yourself or a friend, reach out for help. TEXT: 741741 http://www.crisistextline.org/
  2. JED - To learn about emotional health and how to support a friend, visit: https://www.jedfoundation.org/help For more guidance on talking to friends and family about the series click here
  3. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, En Espanol: 1-888-628-9454, Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889 - Suicidepreventionlifeline.org

What to do When Someone You Love Wants to Die

Episode 006, featuring “Ask the Expert” with Sarah Fader, is all about recovery from a suicide attempt and suicide prevention. This episode is for the person who loves someone who longs to die. This is for the caregiver who feels stuck. Someone you care about is suffering with a mental illness so much that they are either threatening suicide, or you worry they may want to die. This episode is all about the kind souls who want to help, but feel like they’re on the outside, looking in. *Trigger warning: suicide, suicide attempt, suicide prevention, suicidal ideation

Help! Someone I Love Wants to Die (Listen Now)

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. In today’s episode (click here to listen on iTunes), we discuss suicide prevention and so much more:

Episode 006 of the #AskSteveAustin podcast: Help! Someone I Love Wants to Die

Click here to listen to Episode 006 of the #AskSteveAustin podcast on iTunes right now.

How to Recover from a Suicide Attempt

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. My story, From Pastor to a Psych Ward, is an Amazon best-selling book, and now you can listen to all 13-episodes of my story as a serial podcast on iTunes. Pastor to Psych Ward Podcast

When I left home that Sunday night, I knew my wife and little boy would never see alive again.

I'm Steve Austin. I survived childhood sexual abuse, but the effects rippled through my life for the next twenty-five years. After nearly ten years as a youth pastor and worship leader, I was convinced that my only "out" was a suicide attempt.

Now that I have started telling my story of how to recover from a suicide attempt, people often ask me things like:

  • What's the trick?
  • What's the answer?
  • What made me want to start living again?

My friend, JJ Landis, says, there is no "magic Jesus pill". And she's right. There's no single step that suddenly makes life better or "normal". I walked through a living hell and now I have a story to tell. Jesus is a major part of it, but there was also strong medication, one heck of a support system, and a lot of hard work. Recovery is a long and difficult process, but I am living proof that it is possible.

This story is for anyone who lived through a suicide attempt and is left wondering "what's next". It's also for anyone suffering from anxiety or depression, bipolar, OCD, PPD, or PTSD.

If you've ever secretly longed to die, this book is for you. I'm not a doctor or a counselor. I'm just a real guy with a powerful story to tell. I'd be honored to share my experience with you.

Here's what Amazon readers have said about From Pastor to a Psych Ward:

  • Through practical application and intentional steps toward recovery, this book packs a punch. And it's not just for someone who has failed a suicide attempt: it's perfect for anyone struggling with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, too. Don't miss this book!
  • This book gave voice to the things in my head. This book was exactly what I needed to hear. I cannot recommend this book enough. As someone who struggles with anxiety and depression in the church, reading these words was like a breath of fresh air.
  • Steve is such a talented writer with a true gift of being able to tell about horrific life experiences with truth, dignity, and just the right sprinkling of humor to touch the hearts and souls of the readers.
  • The book goes beyond the trauma story to deal with personal faith in an unexpected way. Not preachy. Very accessible to readers of any--or no--faith. Steve overcomes oppressive and shameful aspects of his religion, and manages to find a faith that incorporates recovery and authenticity.
  • Austin is brutally honest about what it's like to be suicidal. This book is a must-read for anyone who has been suicidal or depressed. It's a great read for family members who are trying to support a loved one with mental illness.

As my gift to you for Mental Health Awareness Month, you can now listen to all 13-episodes of From Pastor to a Psych Ward on iTunes today! Just click here.

Subscribe to Steve Austin's free weekly email newsletter by clicking here now.

1 Thing Depressed People Need from the Church

“If we don’t have a theology that embraces mental illness, our God is too small.”William Paul Young, author of The Shack

I was a pastor when I nearly died by suicide. I was 28 years old, married five years, and the proud father of a tiny baby boy. No one saw it coming (usually no one does). I’d been a star student, never met a stranger and always did my best to make everyone feel better about themselves. I was born to be a pastor. What happened?

1 Thing Depressed People Need from the Church

I’d been raised a “good little” Baptist, and then became a devout Pentecostal. I had also lived through the aftermath of my aunt’s suicide 15 years earlier, and I’d heard the things church people mumbled under their breath at her funeral. I had listened to the pastor’s response to my Mama’s question, “When someone commits suicide, do they go to hell?” I saw teams of people attempt to cast out demons when depression was mentioned at an altar call. And I’d heard well-meaning Christians tell those same people to just “choose joy.”

In ministry school, I struggled with the notion that there’s a demon behind every bush. I knew plenty of hurting people and they certainly didn’t seem possessed to me. And if broken hearts (or broken brains) are indicative of demon possession, doesn’t that include an awful lot of people? I adored my aunt, and I was certain she hadn’t been demonic. She was just broken, exhausted and misunderstood. She was hurting, just like the other 44,193 people in America who die by suicide every year (AFSP.org).

The truth is, I understood exactly what my aunt had felt like for so many years. I was a pastor, and I wanted to die. Everyone thought I was on top of the world; I was too ashamed to tell them it felt like the world was on top of me.

[clickToTweet tweet="The 1 Thing Depressed People Need from The Church #mentalhealth #depression #church #stigma #AskSteveAustin" quote="The 1 Thing Depressed People Need from The Church" theme="style3"]

On Sept. 21, 2012, one day before my son’s first birthday, all my secrets came to a fever pitch. My life hung in the balance in an ICU. Once I was stabilized, I was sent to a psych ward, followed by intense counseling and therapy, then new prescriptions. Throughout my recovery, one of my most pressing questions was, “Will I ever find my place in the church again?”

When we resigned from the tiny little Baptist church where I’d been serving when I attempted suicide, I wasn’t sure what would happen to the relationship I’d always had with the church. I believed the Church of Jesus Christ was the hope of the world, but was it the hope for a pastor who felt like a failure? Where does the person who doesn’t feel man enough, husband enough or Christian enough go to lay down their burdens?

Read the rest of this deeply personal narrative at ReThinkChurch.org by clicking right here. 

4/7 is World Health Day and the United Methodist Church is reaching out to people who feel depressed.

Read the 1 thing depressed people need from the church.

Want a FREE copy of my Amazon best-seller, From Pastor to a Psych Ward? Just click here.

What's Your Self Care Score? Take the Quiz!

Are you a self care guru or a master of your own disaster? Do you have boundaries, or do you have a hard time telling people "no"? What's your self care score? Take the quiz today!

What's your self care score?

I created this fun, new quiz just for you! Take it today! And if you're really brave, leave your results in the comments. Just click here to find your self care score. -Steve

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