A new study revealed how youth suicides spiked to a two-decade high following the release of an online streaming television series on Netflix that depicted a young girl ending her life, read a press release.
The study, led by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, published the shocking report Monday, demonstrated how the first episode which aired on March 29, 2017, led to a massive increase in the suicide rate for 10- to 17-year-olds in the following month [April 2017].
“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, PhD, director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and the lead author of the study.
More than 190 American tweens in April 2017 took their own lives. That resulted in a suicide rate of .57 per 100,000 people, more than 30% higher than in the preceding five years for the month. An additional investigation determined that the April 2017 suicide rate tagged 19-year highs.
“Portrayals of suicide in entertainment media should avoid graphic detail of the suicide – which the series did not – and adhere to best practice guidelines to reduce risk of subsequent suicide,” Bridge said.
Researchers used “interrupted time series and forecasting models” to examine monthly rates of youth suicides between 1Q13 through 4Q17 — the period of time before the release of “13 Reasons Why.”
“The researchers examined immediate effects and subsequent trends and adjusted for potential effects of seasonality and underlying trends on suicide rates. Data were obtained for cases in which suicide was listed as the underlying cause of death from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARSTM) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” read the press release.
Months after the “13 Reasons Why” airing date, Netflix increased the graphic content advisories and added a warning before the initial episode. Stating:
“13 Reasons Why is a fictional series that tackles tough, real-world issues, taking a look at sexual assault, substance abuse, suicide, and more. By shedding a light on these difficult topics, we hope our show can helps viewers start a conversation. But if you are struggling with these issues yourself, this series may not be right for you or you may want to watch it with a trusted adult. And if you ever feel you need someone to talk with, reach out to a parent, a friend, a school counselor, or an adult you trust, call a local helpline, or go to 13ReasonsWhy.info. Because the minute you start talking about it, it gets easier,” read the series’ warning.
Dr. John Ackerman, a co-author on the study and suicide prevention coordinator at CSPR, said this “study demonstrates parents should be cautious about exposing youth to this series. With a third season of the series expected to air soon, continued surveillance is needed to monitor potential consequences on suicide rates in association with viewing the series.”
Lisa Horowitz, a co-author and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health, said suicide is one of the top causes of deaths for tweens and called it a “major public health crisis.”
It’s clear that young Americans are highly influenced by media. With a third season expected to return this year, parents have to be extra vigilant when allowing their children to watch such a graphic show.