Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ Linked to Large Spike in Youth Suicides in the US

Nearly two years ago, online streaming giant Netflix released the first season of its original series, “13 Reasons Why,” based on the novel of the same name. The show, aimed at the youth market, came under fire by mental health experts worried that its depiction of suicide would encourage viewers struggling with depression to consider taking their own lives.

Unfortunately, hindsight has proven these concerns to likely be true, with suicides among American teenagers increasing sharply alongside the show’s original release.

“13 Reasons Why” and its source material follow the events that unfold after high school student Hannah takes her own life. Notably, she leaves behind a collection of cassette tapes detailing how various people in her life contributed to her decision. Critics at the time said both the graphic depiction of Hannah’s suicide and  the dark romanticism surrounding her death in the series would have the potential to encourage viewers to fantasize about — and perhaps follow through with — self-harm or suicide.

Not long after the series was released, after becoming something of a sensation among young Netflix viewers, the number of online searches related to suicide spiked in the United States. However, at the time, it was difficult to tell whether or not these users were merely curious “13 Reasons Why” viewers or individuals seeking support.

A newly published study by psychiatry researchers at the National Institutes of Health, however, claims that there’s a likely link between the release of “13 Reasons Why” and the higher rate of suicide. In April 2017, when controlling for other trends and factors, researchers found a 29 percent increase in suicides among Americans aged 10 to 17. This was likely tied to the show and its promotion.

Though the study’s authors were hesitant to declare a definitive causal link between the Netflix series and this spike, they struggled to find other responsible factors. Over the five-year period examined, the period from April to the end of December of 2017 had higher numbers of youth suicides than statistical trends would have otherwise predicted. An estimated nearly 200 additional suicides were part of this increase.

Dr. Lisa Horowitz, the study’s lead author, explains that these results “should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to media,” emphasizing the need to be conscientious of depictions of suicide — be it in the news or in entertainment.

Take Action!

In response to criticism over the depiction of suicide in “13 Reasons Why,” Netflix added a message to every episode featuring information on how to seek help for those struggling with depression. This addition, however, was seen as little more than lip service to squelch a call to remove the show. Now we know that the show’s callous depiction of mental illness has likely contributed to dozens — if not hundreds — of young Americans taking their own lives.

Earlier this year, Netflix teased that a third season of “13 Reasons Why” is coming soon to the streaming service. Given the questionably tasteless nature of the series and its apparent real-world impact on its teenage audience, this is absolutely reckless. Add your name to our Care2 petition to call on Netflix to cancel and remove “13 Reasons Why.” Profit is not more important than the lives of young Americans!

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

 

Photo Credit: K. A. Yancey/Flickr

22 comments

Dr. Jan H
Dr. Jan Hyesterday

yes

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Celine Russo
Celine Russo10 days ago

It's not a tv series that make people kill themselves, they must have had already a few reasons to think about it before and then the show might have convinced them. Censoring a series and not working on what caused them to take such an action in the first place doesn't help the problem at all, it's just pretending things are better that way and scapegoating someone else for these deaths.

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Sherry Kohn
Sherry Kohn13 days ago

Signed

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Anne Moran
Anne Moran14 days ago

Why encourage the youth of today, who think suicide is cool, or is the only way out ??

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Alea C
Alea C14 days ago

Tyfs.

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Heather B
Heather B14 days ago

I oppose censorhship. It takes more than a tv show, no matter how dramatic and detailed, to force someone into extreme action. there is still free choice and parents should not abdicate their responsibility to see that their children are exposed to things that educate and uplift. If your child is showing signs of depression, get them some counselling/help/attention. suicide is more complicated than just watching a show or movies or reading books. Censorship is not the answer.

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RK R
RK R14 days ago

What is in the collection of cassette tapes detailing how various people in her life contributed to her decision? Must be a consensus of relatable experiences the meshes with the tipping point of suicidal tendencies in those cassettes.

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Loredana V
Loredana V14 days ago

I signed the petition, but even if we succeed it's not over.
Work at the root of the problem!
People spend too much time watching TV series or on social media, and they are no more able to live a real life.

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Elizabeth H
Elizabeth H14 days ago

Julia R, I couldn't agree more. Why do people need all these extra channels anyway. Get rid of your technology, get out more, read books, play board games or even just communicate.

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Lisa M
Lisa M14 days ago

Thanks.

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