Popular Netflix series hits close to home at Male High School

Published: May. 31, 2017 at 1:31 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2017 at 12:43 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Maddie Yates was a warm smile to friends, a belly laugh to family and a hard-working sophomore at Male High School before she committed suicide in 2014.

In one of her last Youtube videos, Maddie said, "The most important thing in high school when accepting other people, you have to be able to accept yourself."

"She didn't see the bad in you, she didn't see the negative, she saw whatever it was that made you beautiful from the inside," Maddie's mother, Annis
Yates, said.

Maddie saw the shine in others, but inside, hers was dimming. Four months before her death, Maddie was diagnosed with anxiety, started counseling and taking medication and cut back on several activities.

"There were three things that happened in the weekend leading to Maddie taking her life on a Monday, and to be honest, a lot of people say -- and I agree with this now -- you look at it like a glass half-full, and you just add one more d rop and it makes the water overflow," Yates said.

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Two days before Maddie's suicide, she spent the night at the cemetery, remembering her friend, Brianna, a 13-year-old student at Crosby Middle School, who committed suicide the year before.

The pain of losing her friend, combined with the news that she wasn't accepted into the Governor's Scholar Program, were all factors that led to her suicide, her mother believes.

Her story of desperation is one of many. Teen suicide is a terrifying epidemic sweeping the country. The provocative 2017 Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" has shone a light on an otherwise dark topic.

The fictitious show follows Hannah, a teenager struggling in her relationships with schoolmates, who leaves behind a series of audiotapes for 13 of her fellow students, explaining how each impacted her decision. Critics of the show, which has been renewed for a second season, said it glamorizes suicide, while supporters said it has started a much-needed conversation about it.

"The show's powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies," The National Associate School of Psychologists said.

Added Chris Peters, a UofL associate professor who works with suicidal youth every day: "We know that a lot of youth, probably up to 20 percent, will have emotional and mental health needs.

Peters added that warning signs include moodiness, irritability and even a d rop in grades.

"You really have to look at functionality, and what in their functioning is different," Peters said. "They used to do these activities, now they don't. They used to talk to this peer group, now they don't. They used to go outside, now they don't."

Like Hannah -- and Maddie -- their ability to fully function died long before they did. Maddie's friends are graduating from Male High School now, and are remembering her two years later. Rhiane Steinhauer is the first recipient of the Maddie Yates Hope Memorial Scholarship, receiving $500 toward college.

"I was in that place too when she did it, so she saved my life," Steinhauer said. "Seeing everyone and how sad they were for her it made me know, no I can't do that. I live life for her, and what she did for me."

WATCH: Lauren Jones' report here

Maddie's family does the same, living for their loved one. Her mother spends every Monday, the day her daughter died, grieving. She said she hopes the loss of her vibrant, loving daughter encourages other high schoolers to live, love and be kind.

"Be kind to everyone you meet, because Maddie was kind," Yates said. "She really was. She was very kind."

If you know someone who is suicidal, or needs help, contact the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or click here.

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