In the study, the month following the show’s March 2017 debut showed a 28.9% suicide increase in young Americans ages 10-17. According to NPR, those numbers reflected the highest spike in teen suicide of any given month within the five year period the researchers surveyed.
“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” study co-author Lisa Horowitz says. “All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”
Subject matter of the show aside, 13 Reasons Why also depicts graphic imagery of mental health. While the show has put disclaimers noting that it could be triggering for some viewers, it has received a lot of backlash from watchers and mental health advocates everywhere.
That said, lead author and suicide researcher Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Jeff Bridge says the show was aware of the graphic implications going into production.
“The creators of the series intentionally portrayed the suicide of the main character,” Bridge says. “It was a very graphic depiction of the suicide death.”
While researchers seem indicative of the show playing a major role in the increase, the study itself claims that it cannot completely prove that the two are linked. That said, the study weighs the possibility of a currently unknown factor playing into the recent spike in teen suicide.
“We’ve just seen the study and are looking into the research,” a spokesperson for Netflix says. “This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”
Interestingly enough, the recent National Institutes Of Health study suggests a different outcome than another study done by the University of Pennsylvania.
While the numbers suggest different implications, it is important to note that the University of Pennsylvania’s study examined young adults ages 18-29, and not younger viewers ages 10-17.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s research, the show actually “reported declines in suicide ideation and self-harm relative to those who did not watch the show at all.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, there is help to be found. Please consider these online resources and talk to your regular doctor about your symptoms:
- The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also reach out to Crisis Text Line by texting GO to 741741.
- MentalHealth.gov – Get Immediate Help
- ImAlive – Online Crisis Network
- International Association For Suicide Prevention – Resources
- The Anxiety And Depression Association Of America
- The National Alliance On Mental Illness
- American Psychiatric Association – Finding Help
- National Institute Of Mental Health
- American Psychological Association – Psychologist locator