New research has linked the Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” to a spike in youth suicides in recent years.
The popular show’s debut on March 31, 2017, coincided with a nearly 29 percent increase in suicide rates among young people between ages 10 and 17 in following months, according to a study published Tuesday in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.
“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” Lisa Horowitz, a researcher in the National Institute of Mental Health and study author, said in a news release.
The Netflix-based series “13 Reasons Why” chronicles a young girl’s suicide and the examination of 13 tapes she left behind that explain why she decided to kill herself.
The popularity of the show moved the researchers to compare suicide rates among children before and after the show’s premiere. Following the show’s premiere, the researchers estimated 195 people between ages 10 and 17 died by suicide from April 1, 2017 to Dec. 31, 2017.
Data also showed that suicide rates were high for young people throughout March leading up to the premiere of “13 Reasons Why.” Although previews that exposed young viewers to the show’s premise may have contributed to those earlier suicide numbers, the researchers said.
Netflix told The New York Times in a statement that it is reviewing the new study, but pointed out that it conflicts with a University of Pennsylvania study published on April 25 in Social Science and Medicine.
That study found both harmful and helpful effects from the series after participants viewed season two. While some “exhibited greater suicide risk and less optimism about the future,” others said they were more likely to express interest in helping a suicidal person — with the latter view more prevalent among those who watched the entire second season.
“This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly,” the spokesperson told The Times.
The findings of the new study, and some in the previous study, however, align with a range of research from organizations like the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the World Health Organization and suicide.org that explain how media depictions can fuel suicide rates in young people.
“All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises,” Horowitz said.