mental health

Teen Suicide Rate Increased Following the Release of 13 Reasons Why

Photo: Beth Dubber/Netflix

When Netflix released the first season of its mega-popular series 13 Reasons Why, which depicts an adolescent who dies by suicide and leaves messages for the classmates she holds responsible for her death, the show was met with critical concern that it could lead to an increase in suicides. The National Association of School Psychologists even issued a warning that announced it would “not recommend that vulnerable youth, especially those who have any degree of suicidal ideation, watch this series. Its powerful storytelling may lead impressionable viewers to romanticize the choices made by the characters and/or develop revenge fantasies.”

A new study, published Monday by the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found that in April 2017, the month after the series’ release, suicide rates rose significantly among boys aged 10 to 17, the New York Times reports. According to the study, that month had the highest suicide rate among that particular demographic in the past five years. The suicide rate for girls in that age group did not significantly increase. There were 195 more youth suicides than anticipated over the nine-month period after the show aired, the Associated Press reports.

The study’s results are plausible but its methods were not comprehensive. For instance, the study did not incorporate data on suicide attempts. Researchers did not know whether anyone who died by suicide had seen the show.

Study co-author and staff scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health, Lisa Horowitz, said in a statement, “The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media … All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”

A Netflix spokesperson said they had only just seen the study and were looking into the matter, adding “This is a critically important topic and we have worked to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.” Netflix has already added various disclaimers and trigger warnings at the beginnings and ends of some episodes.

Teen Suicide Rate Rose After the Release of ‘13 Reasons Why’