The new Netflix original TV series “13 Reasons Why” prompted educators and mental health professionals to issue strong warnings to parents and schools. The series chronicles the life of a fictional high school student and the 13 reasons she feels led to her suicide. Many are worried vulnerable teens will watch the show without the help of a responsible adult to process the difficult themes, which include portraying suicide as almost inevitable, even romanticized, according to critics.
As a parent of teens, I’ve given a lot of thought to providing an open environment for discussing concerns in their lives. Our talks tend to veer in the direction of faith, since love for God and the Bible have provided an invaluable anchor for my children’s spiritual and character education.
As a Christian Scientist, I’ve learned to cultivate a habit of turning to prayer for guidance in supporting my children’s mental health and helping them see that when pressures come up in their lives, no matter what they’re facing, they are always loved – not just by me, but by the divine source of their life – and that there is a way to find healing. I love the spirit of these ideas: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). And “[The Lord] said, ‘I have loved you with a love that lasts forever. I have kept on loving you with a kindness that never fails’ ” (Jeremiah 31:3).
We can each express God’s kindness and love by striving to see and emphasize the good, true, spiritual identity of the teens we care about and helping them see the good in their peers, too. This can nurture qualities such as respect, honesty, unselfishness, kindness, discernment – including in the way they talk about and portray themselves and their peers on social media.
One of the key lessons I’ve shared with my children from my experience is based on what Christ Jesus proved in his life, showing us how Love overcomes hate and light defeats darkness. Dark thoughts never have their source in God, who is good. We all have the innate ability to recognize and choose to accept the good and loving thoughts from God that are always present to guide us, and to feel the tender presence and protective power of that goodness in our lives.
Beyond my family, I’m making an effort to prayerfully stand up for all young people’s right to feel safe and confident about their life and to know they’re not alone in thinking through these tough issues. There are many more than 13 reasons why life is worth living.
A version of this article ran in the May 12 issue of The Huffington Post.