Oxford High School responds to Netflix series with '13 Reasons Why Not' project

It was just like any other day. Students at Oxford High School were sitting in class, expecting to hear the morning announcements over the loudspeaker. Instead, they heard a very different recording - and would for the next 13 days.

The taped messages were the very raw and heartfelt thoughts of some of their fellow students who have gone through dark and painful times. At the end of the recording, the student thanked someone who gave them hope and helped them through the tough time. That was their reason "why not" -- instead of "why," as a popular Netflix TV series about suicide recently chronicled.

The show "13 Reasons Why" is about a high schooler Hannah who died by suicide. After her death, a classmate finds a box of recordings made by Hannah, each telling the 13 reasons why she decided to take her own life.

The series has caused controversy, with some saying it glamorizes suicide and suggests it's the inevitable option. A small group of students and faculty at Oxford High School, though, took this as an opportunity to open up the conversation about suicide. They founded a project called 13 Reasons Why Not.

Their project was inspired not only by the show, but by the death of Megan Abbott, a freshman who died by suicide four years ago. Morgan Abbott, Megan's sister, participated in the project with a recording.

"I have had some painful days, but I will never make the choice my sister made. I will be at prom. My mom will get to be at my high school graduation. I will fall in love, get married, have children. I will go off to college and maybe become a counselor. I have dreams and I have goals. I have life with a million reasons why not," Morgan said in her message.

Another participant, Maddie Dryps, spoke about how she was bullied for having ADHD and not being able to read as good as the other kids.

"My reason [why not] was for my twin sister and my close best friend for being there for me, for standing up for me. One would come comfort me and the other would tell them to stop it," Maddie told us. You can hear more from her, Morgan and another participant, Dylan Koss, about the project in the video player above.

The recordings were very raw and personal, and sometimes even included things the teens hadn't even told their parents.

"It's a little difficult to do that, but once you get past it, it's a weight lifted off your shoulders. It really is," says Dylan.

All messages were written beforehand and submitted to their Dean of Students, who read over them to make sure the student was in a safe place to share their store with the whole school - 1,800 kids - and would be able handle whatever the response was. We're told, though, the response was overwhelmingly positive.

"Through all 13 tapes, there was never a negative comment," says Dylan.

"A lot of people afterwards, they said that I was brave for doing it and a lot of people came up to me and were giving me hugs afterwards," Morgan says. "The school felt a lot nicer."

When asked their thoughts on the TV show, overall the students seemed wary but also appreciative of it.

"I think if the show helped us get this project out, then it was an accomplishment," says Dylan. "We've heard from several people that we've helped them. So if the show can do that, whether or not it was good or bad, I think it succeeded. It created the dialogue that we needed."

"I know a lot of people say [the show] glorifies suicide, but from my perspective, I felt it was more or less trying to show the mindset of [suicide] so people understood it and can help people to know what to look for," Morgan says.

In honor of her sister on the fourth anniversary of her death, Morgan is asking everyone to participate in Megan Minutes -- where you only say nice things to each other for the remainder of the day.

For more information on the school's project, visit www.oxfordhighschools.org