Usually my “Sips Tea” articles are lighthearted, fun and even a little sassy. But this week, like some weeks before, is different. I want to use this platform to talk about an important message that needs to be heard, especially after the popularity of a recently released Netflix show 13 Reasons Why has entered many conversations I’ve had among friends lately and in a recent Daily Trojan article. The issues the show addresses and brings to light, including bullying, emotional and physical abuse, sexual assault, and suicide are all topics that are hard to talk about given their nature.
For those of you who have not seen the show, it is about a girl in high school, Hannah Baker, who eventually takes her own life after suffering through more than a year of repeated offenses that go unnoticed and unpunished. She leaves behind 13 reasons for her decision to commit suicide on cassette tapes for her perpetrators to listen to in hopes of forcing them to look at themselves in the mirror.
Although it is an intensely triggering and at times graphic show, 13 Reasons Why still makes me grateful that it was produced. It comes at a time when schools, especially high schools and universities, are doing a much better job at taking notice of issues such as student mental health in an effort to prevent suicides on campuses.
Before entering the University, students are required to take online classes including AlcoholEDU and a sexual assault awareness course. For many students, unfortunately, these courses present more of a “click through” burden than actual education on such important topics — something that I hope the University finds a way to address in the future. If tools and programs like these are enforced in a much stronger way, then perhaps the offenses that Hannah Baker faced in 13 Reasons Why might not continue to be as prevalent as they are.
There is a famous saying,“Treat others how you would want to be treated.” Though it’s a saying that is often uttered, it’s also not a standard often met. I know that many times I have not wanted to be nice to someone who was not to me. I have held grudges and not forgiven out of spite or hurt or jealousy. We all have. Whether it was a big or small reaction, if we answer honestly, all of us have fallen short of this golden rule. But it’s time we all try to do better.
Before I graduate, I want to leave this community better than when I entered. By not actively participating in change, you are just as much to blame for the things that fall short of this golden rule. Bystanders are passive. Sticking to the status quo is passive. I want to call us, as USC students, as young adults, as humans, to do better. To be active. As Ghandi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It takes every one of us to change the culture of this community, whether that be your classroom, your sorority or fraternity, even your own group of friends.
I want to use what is left of my some 600 words a week to give everyone a place to start.
USC 24/7 Crisis Counseling: 213-740-7711
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 800-656-4673
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
If YOU or ANYONE you know needs help, be the change.
You are NOT alone, and no one should feel the need to follow the path that Hannah Baker did.
Samantha Johnson is a senior majoring in communication. Her column, Sips Tea, runs every other week on Friday.