As someone who had nine suicides happen at my high school during the four years I attended, I feel like I understand the true reality of what happens. My freshman year of high school there were three suicides, none of which I knew personally, so I wasn't affected in the slightest. My sophomore year of high school there were two suicides, this time someone I actually knew but not someone I had been particularly close to. I played a more supportive role that year. My junior year the number of suicides went back to three, no one I really knew, but again, someone who was close to my friends so I went back to my supportive role. My senior year, the one suicide we had that year absolutely devastated me. That's just the number of people who had actually succeeded in killing themselves, there was many more who attempted during my time in high school.
My freshman year they didn't do anything besides let the students know that a tragedy had happened and that we could see a counselor, if needed. My sophomore year one of the students started a fire because she had been bullied, and the parents wanted something done so it wouldn't happen again. They didn't want to have another child lose their life because people didn't understand how to be kind to one another. This year they pulled everyone from their morning English classes, so not everyone saw this, where we had someone tell us that it's our fault we're depressed and no one can make us feel bad about ourselves. It was garbage. They also held an after school event where they had different people from the communities come in and represent themselves so students could know where to go and get help.
My junior year nothing really happened besides the grief counselors after the three suicides. I believe it was this year that the Gay Straight Alliance I was running started really talking about mental health because we didn't want anything like this happening again. These people were our friends. Our classmates. They no longer were going to be able to get that high school diploma, have a life, or have a family. They would get nothing.
Then my senior year, someone really close to me killed himself. This is really when I saw the full effect of what suicide in high school does. It meant that people who had barely ever spoken to him used this to get attention. They wrote about how much they loved him. The school really didn't do anything besides grief counseling for one day with people who must not have had actual training for this besides the fact that this had happened before.
His girlfriend didn't show up to school for months, mostly doing her classes online or at home. His family invited his friends to light lanterns in his memory, he had been the light in so many lives. I don't believe he left a note, at least I don't remember hearing about it. What he did leave behind was broken hearts and not enough memories.
It was also this year that another school got away with making a musical about some of the suicides at my school, all because the students were LGBT. A musical. A musical about suicides. It was completely inappropriate. So I also got to see random people mourn people they hadn't met because another school felt it was their place to do that.
So the only reality that Thirteen Reasons Why really showed was Clay losing his shit about the fact that no one really took Hannah's suicide seriously enough. That the school didn't do enough. However, there was no shrine. There were no posters on the wall telling you not to kill yourself. There were no tapes to get revenge on the people who had pushed them over the line.
The reality was that people suffered in silence. We fell into pieces that can never be fully repaired again. Then we tried to continue living. Continued with our testing, homework, projects, college applications. We tried to move on. You never really do though. For the rest of your life your heart will always beat a little faster when your friend calls you in the middle of the night. Or if they don't answer your texts and calls. You will always worry way more. You will always think the worst.
That is the reality of suicide in high school, not some revenge fantasy.