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My Search For Why People Die By Suicide Led Me To ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’

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Have you lately wondered about the reasons why a person dies by suicide? I have been doing the same. I tried to hunt for the answer in a book that holds a promising title — Thirteen Reasons Why. “He came. He saw. He conquered.” Life isn’t this easy. Just last week, we saw the heart-wrenching tragedy of Sushant Singh Rajput who died by suicide. Everyone wants to know why.

I tried looking for an answersince the book title so sincerely promises to let you know 13 reasons for the “why” that remains unanswered after so many suicide cases. The book is the tale of a girl, Hannah Baker, who dies by suicide and sends tapes of her narration to people whose deeds made her give up on her life.

Am I A Culprit?

13 Reasons Why taught me that everyone can become a reason for one’s death. “Most of you…had no idea what you were doing, what you were truly doing,” says Hannah. You might think that a bit of high-school fun can never be a killer. But guess what? Hannah’s first culprit was a boy who started a high-school rumour, and another was a girl who believed in the rumour.

A simple finger cut is never too painful, but if you keep on getting yourself cut at the same spot, every day, the pain could become unbearable. We keep going about our lives, sometimes making a joke that looks ‘oh-so-harmless’, or often becoming a rumour-spreader because “what’s life without some spice?”. Some innocent lies here, some innocent tricks there, and we do not realise that we could be affecting someone, someone who might break because of our seemingly “harmless” words.

hannah from 13 reasons why
Maybe a bit of attention, a bit of a conversation and a bit of time can prevent another story like Hannah Baker’s. Don’t think. If you can think of a Hannah Baker in your own life, go talk to her. 

The Snowball Effect

If you can picture how a snowball rolls down a slope, getting bigger as it reels, you’ll understand how one incident, on top of another, with another topping, and then another, can burden a person so much that they can no longer get up. A teacher in this book explains: “It’s one thing on top of another.” And the trigger is pushed when you can find absolutely no way out of the situation you have been thrown into.

Identity Crisis

Have you ever been projected by others as a person you are not? And slowly, you felt that the false identity weighs so much that everyone perceives you not as what you are, but what others think of you? We have all been there (or are still there). Well, not only is our identity twisted by others, but we also play a part in twisting others’ identities.

Try remembering a time when you judged others, or when you formed an opinion of Person A on the basis of what Person B and Person Z said about them, without even having a good talk with Person A. Most of us can be held guilty for this, right? Well, Hannah is perceived to be an “easy” girl in her school. The result? Well, a boy tries to touch her and when she retaliates, he says, “Just relax.” 

No Help

A lot of people know when people dear to them are having some issues, but they choose to give up, ignore, or just take no notice. Some think that they just need attention. In this book, two people (and two is a big number; even one would have been enough) confess that they knew something was off with Hannah, but they could not reach out to her sooner. It is only after her death that they realised the burden of “if only…”

Do Schools Teach Us Anything More Than ABC?

Do you know what Hannah did before her death? She went to a school counsellor, and guess what? He couldn’t help her. He couldn’t understand the gravity of the situation in which the teenager was. Though in their meeting, words suggesting “suicide” and “giving up” are mentioned, the counsellor could not stop her.

This clearly reflects where the whole institution of school fails to solve a problem. It’s clear that children do not just need help with finding answers to “a square + b square,” they need more than that. And what’s the use of finding the perimeter of a room, when the next day, they are no longer even alive to enter that room?


The last emotion that this book will give you is hope. When the last page is turned, we see a boy running after a girl, whom he suspects of being suicidal. Maybe he hopes that a bit of attention, a bit of a conversation and a bit of time can prevent another story like Hannah Baker’s. Don’t think. If you can think of a Hannah Baker in your own life, go talk to her. After all, the world would do better with one less 13-reasons-why.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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