Netflix Show ’13 Reasons Why’ Raises Interest in Committing Suicide

Internet streaming service Netflix has become a favorite for people seeking to ditch the traditional television experience. In the wake of its success, the on-demand video giant has entered the original content game by throwing its weight behind exclusive movies and TV shows.

But one of Netflix’s most recent offerings, despite its positive critical reception, might be behind a recent surge of online interest in committing suicide.

The Netflix release at the center of this phenomenon is “13 Reasons Why,” a series based on the young adult fiction novel of the same name by author Jay Asher. For those unfamiliar with the novel and show, “13 Reasons Why” focuses on the aftermath of high school student Hannah Baker’s suicide.

Both follow Baker’s friend, Clay Jensen, who receives a series of cassette tapes featuring recordings made by Baker. Each of the tapes describes one of the thirteen people who prompted her to take her life and why. At one point, the series also depicts Baker’s suicide in a very graphic manner.

In the past, researchers have found that media reports of suicides may lead to increased suicide attempts among the public. Given this connection, a group of psychologists sought to explore the effects of “13 Reasons Why” in this respect.

And what these mental health experts discovered is deeply troubling.

Turning to Google search trends, they uncovered a pattern indicating a piqued interest in suicide following the release of the Netflix series. Among the query phrases, “how to commit suicide” rose 26 percent over the next 19 days, while “commit suicide” increased by 18 percent.

Overall, suicide-related Google searches spiked by 19 percent over this period. And researchers were careful to filter out certain unrelated queries like “suicide squad,” the name of a comic book film.

While the authors of this study say that they also found a jump in searches related to suicide prevention — “suicide hotline” rose by 12 percent, for example — they expressed concern over the series’ ideation of suicide.

From the dramatic and graphic depiction of the main character’s suicide to the central premise of the series, in which Baker’s tapes are distributed to people she blames for pushing her to take her own life, “13 Reasons Why” arguably romanticizes suicide.

And as this series is targeted at a teen demographic — an age group whose second highest cause of death in the United States is suicide — its creation was, at best, haphazard. At worst, the TV show could serve as a possible source of encouragement for real world suicides.

The media’s depiction of suicide and its resulting impact on public health is far from a new subject of study. For years, psychologists have advised caution to content creators seeking to portray such a sensitive subject.

Netflix could — and should — have taken a number of preventative measures, including consulting professionals, shortening or removing the scene showing Baker’s death, hosting a pre-screening of the series to study psychological effects and including suicide prevention hotline numbers in each episode.

At present, it would seem that Netflix did none of these things. For many teens struggling with depression and isolation, the fantasy surrounding suicide can make it dangerously tempting. “13 Reasons Why” has essentially glamorized taking ones own life for the sake of entertainment — but at what potential cost?

Take action!

Given the startling spike in suicide-related online searches apparently connected to the series’ debut, Netflix must remove “13 Reasons Why” from its streaming service –- if not permanently, then at least long enough to retool and re-edit the series. The series as it currently exists is entirely unacceptable.

If you agree, please consider adding your name to this Care2 petition, as well as sharing it on social media to encourage Netflix to do the right thing!

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to create your own petition. Make your voice heard today!

Photo Credit: grinvalds / Thinkstock

40 comments

Marie W
Marie W8 months ago

Thanks for sharing

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Mike R
Mike R11 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R11 months ago

Thanks

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Mike R
Mike R11 months ago

Thanks

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Toni W
Toni Wabout a year ago

TYFS

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Toni W
Toni Wabout a year ago

TYFS

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One Heart i
One Heart incabout a year ago

Thanks!!!

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Karen H
Karen Habout a year ago

Like Jan A, I didn't sign the petition. Why? Because removing the show won't, as Sherri S suggests, stop suicides. What the petition should do is ask Netflix to include information on suicide hotlines and encourage those who think someone they know might be suicidal to find a way to help. The TV show isn't causing suicides. Suicide is caused by a lot of things: bullying, sexual assault, mental and physical abuse. When a person reaches a point where suicide seems to be the only answer, it means the people around them have failed. They ignored warning signs. They didn't stop the bullying. As Carol S so aptly said, "the show is a must see for school administration and other people who work with children." If you haven't been so deeply depressed it feels like suicide is the only answer, or if you haven't felt that there's no way to stop the pain, bullying or abuse, then you have no idea what these kids are going through. Tonight on Facebook, we're sharing the following post: Would one friend please copy and repost? I am trying to demonstrate that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness

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One Heart i
One Heart incabout a year ago

Thanks!!!

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Margie F
Margie FOURIEabout a year ago

Thank you

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