14-year-old Alexa Berman took her own life 3 days before starting high school
TRIGGER WARNING: This page and the slides following contain material that might be triggering to survivors of self-harm or other abuse.
In August, 2008, 14-year-old Alexa Berman took her own life three days before starting high school. According to Alexa’s mother, Debbie Zegas Berman, Alexa was a kind, intelligent, sensitive, mature, and creative young girl who didn’t quite fit in at school. She was a bit eccentric, so she didn’t fit in with her peers. Many of her classmates made fun of her behind her back because she was different and didn’t fit the mold of a “normal” teenage girl. She wasn’t popular and didn’t have much of a social life. Many of the girls who made fun of her and excluded her were girls who used to be her close friends.
Alexa’s tragic suicide was a complete shock to her teachers, school administrators, and the parents of her friends. None of them were aware that Alexa suffered from depression, as she had always put on a happy face for the outside world.
Alexa’s grieving parents hoped that their tremendous loss would inspire much-needed change. They believed kids and teens needed better support systems and an outlet to share their thoughts and feelings with others. They hoped that schools would make more of an effort to educate students and parents about the warning signs of suicide and depression, and offer advice on how to react to threats of suicide.
To their grave disappointment, Alexa’s suicide did not lead to meaningful, important conversations about suicide and depression among teens. Their daughter’s untimely death did not spark an outcry or raise awareness. At the time, suicide was considered taboo, and Alexa’s story was silenced.
Nine years after Alexa’s heartbreaking death, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why became a pop-culture sensation. The fictional TV series addressed issues of bullying and suicide in a graphic, sensationalized manner that sparked conversations around the globe.
Alexa’s mother, Debbie Zegas Berman, is grateful that people are finally taking the issues of teenage bullying, depression, and suicide seriously. However, she believes 13 Reasons Why dramatizes and sensationalizes these serious topics in a problematic manner. She hopes that Alexa’s story, and the stories of other real-life, teenage suicide victims, can help educate teens about bullying and suicide in a constructive, sensitive manner.