Oxford High School students fight suicide stigma with '13 Reasons Why Not' stories

Students share tough stories over morning announcements

OXFORD, Mich. – If you've seen the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why," you know it tackles some dark topics that high schoolers experience, specifically suicide.

A Metro Detroit high school is making national headlines with how some students are sharing their darkest moments to benefit everyone.

The show "13 Reasons Why" seemed to suggest that suicide is inevitable, but that didn't sit well with the dean of students at Oxford High School.

She had the idea to create "13 Reasons Why Not," and took it to some seniors in the leadership class.

"We just wanted to spin the show around and show that there are people who love," student Riley Juntii said.

When Juntii's voice came over the school speakers the morning of May 1 instead of the announcements, she talked about a toxic relationship that forced the thought of suicide into her mind. Instead of identifying who it was, she thanked her friend who helped her through it.

"So I called her out and said, 'You did this, this, this and you're one of the 13 reasons why not," Juntii said.

After Juntii's announcement, it was a little easier for other students to step up and share their stories.

"I feel like the message is getting out there, and it's doing what we wanted it do to," Jordan Jadan said.

The reaction has been incredibly positive.

"My phone blew up," Kayla Manzella said.

The movement also honors the memory of Megan Abbott, who took her own life behind the school in July 2013. The students said they wish she could have had the benefit of what's happening now at the school.

"Having someone to open up to is important, and she didn't have that," Jim Linares said.

"Everyone is not afraid to come out and talk to us," Manzella said. "This is like a school-wide thing."

"We wanted to make a difference, and that's what we're doing," Alexa Alban said.

"If we can only save one life, that's enough," Linares said.

Pam Fine said she has more than 100 letters on her desk -- stories from other students wanting to share what they've gone through.

The school said the exercise will last 13 days. Students said the shock has worn off, and now morning announcements are followed by classroom discussions.

About the Authors:

Jason anchors Local 4's 5:30 p.m. newscast. He joined WDIV in January 2015 as a general assignment reporter and has a Journalism degree from Michigan State University.

Derick is the Lead Digital Editor for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.