Teen Suicides Spiked Month After Netflix’s Drama ’13 Reasons Why’ Premiered
Jim Liebelt Jim Liebelt's Blog
- 2019 May 01
*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on CNBC.
Suicide rates for teens saw a sharp increase in the month following the release of the Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why,” according to a study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
“13 Reasons Why,” based on a 2007 novel of the same name by author Jay Asher, follows a 17-year-old high school student whose friend kills herself after facing bullying and sexual assault.
Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital analyzed monthly rates of suicides among individuals ages 10 to 64 between Jan. 1, 2013, and Dec. 31, 2017. They said April 2017, the month after the Season One premiere of “13 Reasons Why,” had the highest suicide rate among ages 10 to 17, increasing by 28.9%.
The study also found that there were about 195 more youth suicides than expected in the nine months following the March 31, 2017 release.
“Youth may be particularly susceptible to suicide contagion, which can be fostered by stories that sensationalize or promote simplistic explanations of suicidal behavior, glorify or romanticize the decedent, present suicide as a means of accomplishing a goal, or offer potential prescriptions of how-to die by suicide,” said Jeff Bridge, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s and the lead author of the study.
There was no significant change in suicide rates for those 18 and older during that period, according to the researchers. The study also found the rate of suicides was mostly driven by males. During the five-year study period, a total of 180,655 suicides occurred in the U.S.
The researchers used forecasting models and examined trends to analyze monthly rates of suicide over the period. They said the data has been adjusted for effects of seasonality and underlying trends on suicide rates. Additionally, the study does not account for whether someone watched the show or not.
The study adds to concerns about Netflix’s popular teen drama, which received universal acclaim from critics but alarmed mental health professionals and advocates with its on-screen depiction of suicide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States.
Following criticism, Netflix added a warning video that would play before the show began and promoted resources to help viewers address the show’s themes.
In response to the study, a Netflix spokesperson said, “We’ve just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania. It’s a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”