A new study indicates that youth suicides increased following the release of the controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” about a girl who dies by suicide, leaving behind cassette tapes for her friends to explain the 13 reasons she decided to end her life.
The study, led by researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, says there were 195 more youth suicides than expected in the nine months after the March 31, 2017, release.
April 2017 had the highest suicide rate among 10- to 17-year olds in the five-year period analyzed, and suicide rates also were elevated in May 2017 and June 2017, according to the study, which was accepted last week for publication by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.
The study reviewed suicides as reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through a web-based system from Jan. 1, 2013, to Dec. 31, 2017.
A Netflix spokesperson did not immediately return a request for comment.
Researchers urge caution in allowing children and adolescents to watch the series.
Youth are particularly vulnerable to suicide “contagion,” the taking of one’s life after exposure to suicide.
Such contagion 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 the study’s lead author, Jeff Bridge, who directs the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s.
Mental-health professionals had expressed concern over the series, and Netflix added a warning that appears before the series and has strengthened graphic content warnings. Netflix also has a website that offers the numbers to crisis text and phone lines, a discussion guide and links to several mental-health resources.
Researchers say there was no correlation between the series release and suicides among people 18 and older.
A second season of “13 Reasons Why” was released in March 2018, and a third is expected this year.
For help, reach someone at the national Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or 1-888-628-9454 for Spanish speakers.