A study connects Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why with an increase in youth suicides. After its initial publication in 2007, Jay Asher’s YA novel 13 Reasons Why reached best-seller status, despite its heavy themes and depiction of teen suicide. A decade later, the novel was adapted as a Netflix series, becoming an instant hit.
Having recently been renewed for a third season, 13 Reasons Why has managed to build the story of a group of teens, connected by the suicide of a classmate, into something perhaps far more substantial than the book originally delivered. It hasn’t been an easy ride, however, with the series experiencing arguably far more criticism than the book initially received. Some communities have even gone as far as pulling the book from their libraries and banning all talk of the series from schools. With that much attention focused on both the book and the series, it’s understandable why its popularity still hasn't diminished, over a decade since its initial publication.
The latest controversy aimed at the Netflix series comes courtesy of EurekAlert!, who site a new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. The study found that the arrival of the 13 Reasons Why series was associated with a 28.9% increase in suicide rates among American youths ages 10-17 in the month of April, 2017.
In order to better understand their findings, researchers studied death by suicide in the United States on an annual and monthly basis in the time preceding the release of 13 Reasons Why. Particular attention was then given to whether suicide rates were lower, higher or the same in the period after the release of the popular Netflix series. What they found was that suicide rates were significantly higher among 10-to 17-year-olds in the months of April, June and December of 2017 than past data indicated during the same period. Suicide rates were also higher in March of 2017, during a time when promotional materials were in full swing for the program’s April release. In order to gain further insight into these numbers, researchers also compared this rise in suicides with homicide rates during the same period. That study did not reveal any significant rise in homicides, leading scientists to conclude that other environmental and world factors at the time were likely not to blame.
Though the study does point to an increase in suicides during the initial release of 13 Reasons Why, to insinuate that the program helps influence teens to kill themselves is a bit excessive. The suicide scene in 13 Reasons Why was not glamorous or inviting in the least and was only shown after extensive explanation as to what drove Hannah Baker to that state. Perhaps researchers might try another study, one that considers the psychological effects of the world’s numerous ongoing wars and often-dismal state of affairs, as seen daily in mainstream media, rather than blame a book and TV series that literally speaks to teens honestly about the tragedy of suicide.