I know I talk about media frequently.  And sometimes, I feel like people are probably tired of hearing about it, especially from me.  However, I can’t let this one slide by.

A few weeks ago, I tuned in to Fox one Thursday night.  I’m not much of a primetime TV viewer (unless it’s sports).  But, I made it a point to turn my television on to catch an episode of “Glee.”

It was the episode that dealt with the death of Cory Monteith, the actor who portrayed all-American boy Finn Hudson on the show.  This summer, after numerous stints in rehab programs, Monteith was found unresponsive in his hotel room.  Autopsy results later revealed he died from a dangerous mix of heroin and alcohol.

I didn’t really make it past the opening scene before the tears started rolling.  Many reviews of the episode said many scenes were first takes.  The emotions were real.  The anger, the sadness, the brokenness displayed by the actors and actresses was authentic.

The episode never actually gave a reason for what happened. His death was addressed only in the fact that it happened. 

So, I sat there, and cried.  I cried because another life ended too early.  And, again, it was completely preventable. But this one hit me harder than others have.

We have a preconceived idea of what a “druggie” looks like, especially when it comes to the harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.  And Monteith did not fit the mold. He wasn’t plastered on the cover of tabloids. He seemed to have it all together.  And when he didn’t have it all together, he admitted it and went to rehab.

But his struggle was private. And that, potentially, proved to be his downfall.  No one knew of the relapse.  Yet it was there, and it was tough. Maybe, had his family or friends known, they could have stepped in. Maybe they could have saved his life.

As the show ended, various cast members spoke regarding the seriousness of substance abuse. They encouraged people to seek help if they were dealing with addiction.  And then the crying stopped.  And I was frustrated.

I was frustrated because for many, that little public service announcement was enough.  It was enough to recite a web address and let it go. But, for me, that’s not cutting it.

Do we want to deal with addiction and substance abuse? Then we as teachers and parents and mentors need to be on the front lines. We need to do more than hand out a pamphlet that describes addiction and the dangers there in.

We need to show our kids that their choices matter.  They need to know that we care about them, and the future they will have.  They need to know that they will struggle, but the sign of maturity is standing strong and setting healthy boundaries. Alcohol, drugs and sex isn’t what makes a man. It’s honesty, integrity and self control.

Drug use destroys lives.  Far too many very talented people have been silenced prematurely by drug overdoses.  Heath Ledger. Amy Winehouse. Whitney Houston. And yet, we think that a simple “get help” public service announcement after an episode is enough to fix it. But it isn’t. Until we fix the root of the problem, treating the symptoms is useless.

The root of the problem, ultimately, is the mindset that our choices don’t matter.  It’s the idea that permeates this culture.  I’m going to do whatever I want to do, and I don’t care who is impacted, or how. It’s the idea that we don’t care what happens, even death. Even if it is death of self.

Since viewing that episode, I am reminded of a quote we use with our students while discussing the influence of media.  Bob Pitman, the creator of MTV, said “If you can get their emotions going, forget their logic, you’ve got them.” And I realized, even as an adult, that comment rings true in my life.  As I watched the episode, with my emotions causing what seemed like buckets of tears to pour from eyes, for a short time I forgot about the bad choice that led to Monteith’s death.  I put my logic on the backburner, ignoring the fact that his death was completely and utterly preventable.

And as long as we think with these emotions, rather than actively examine the messages that we receive, we will miss the truth.  And, I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of our students missing the truth. I encourage you to engage those students in your life, and start real conversations. They deserve the truth, and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to come from anywhere else.