A new study found a sharp increase in teen suicide rates following the Netflix series premiere of 13 Reasons Why.
The study, published in the Journal of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, looked at monthly suicide rates among the 10 to 64 age group between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017. Researchers found a 28.9 percent increase among ages 10 to 17, specifically in the male population, during the one month period following the show’s March 31, 2017 premiere. This was the highest overall rate for this age group in the past five years. The study also found 195 more youth suicides than expected over the nine-month period after the pilot episode.
The show details the circumstances surrounding a high school student’s suicide. It is based on a novel of the same name by Jay Asher.
New Findings Solidify Previous Concerns
While earlier studies only looked at the risk of an increase in teen suicides and found an uptick in online suicide searches, this more recent study shows a significant spike in the number of actual completed suicides. The researchers claim only an association, not direct causation. None-the-less, the findings further solidify concerns about exposing a young audience to the show’s subject matter.
“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, lead author of the study and director of the Center for Suicide Prevention at Nationwide’s Children.
John Ayers, research professor at San Diego State University and author of a previous study recently told CNN, “The time for rhetorical debate is over,” adding, “Our worst fears [are] confirmed. That is, thousands of people, thousands more, are searching online about ways to kill themselves,” after the release of his study ahead of the season two premiere.
The new study’s conclusion is likely to continue the debate as Netflix gears up for a third season. Previous measures taken by Netflix to mitigate the concern include an extensive warning video before each new season’s premiere and additional warnings for individual episodes that deal with sensitive matters.
A Netflix spokesperson said they are looking into the study, along with others around the matter.
“It’s a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly,” the spokesperson said, according to a CNBC report.
It remains to be seen what additional measures will be taken or if the study’s findings will impact the show’s viewership. In the meanwhile, concerned parents can help protect their children by taking steps to identify and deal with suicidal thoughts in teens.