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US teen suicide rates rose by 29% after release of Netflix's 13 Reasons Why, study finds

Researchers said: ‘The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media.’

Image: Shutterstock/DFree

A NEW STUDY has found that teen suicide rates rose in the United States in the months following the release of 13 Reasons Why.

The first season of the show centred around a 17-year-girl who took her own life and left a series of tapes behind explaining her reasons.

The series was later renewed for a second season despite widespread criticism - with a third season due to be released later this year.

An article published in the American Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry analysed data based on suicide rates in the US over a five-year period before and after the release of the show.

It found the rate of suicide among teenagers aged between 10 and 17 had increased by almost 29% in April 2017, a month after the show’s release.

It was also the highest increase of any month recorded in the five-year period – between January 2013 and December 2017 – which was analysed for the study.

“The researchers said it was an example of potential unintended negative consequences of media portrayals of suicide that do not adhere to best practices”.

The study found: “There was a visible and statistically significant effect of the release of 13 Reasons Why.”

A spokesperson for Netflix told TheJournal.ie they were looking into the latest study as it conflicted with a Pennsylvanian University Study which claimed the show reduced the risks of suicide among teens. 

“It’s a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly,” she said. 

That study claimed the show had a positive influence on teens who watched it.

Researchers also forecasted a particular increase in suicide rates amongst girls following the show’s release but found a greater increase in the number of boys who died by suicide in the months following.

Suicide rates in adults across all age-brackets showed no significant increase, researchers found.

“In contrast to findings for children and adolescents, analysis of suicide rates in 18 to 29-year-olds and 30 to 64-year-olds showed no statistically significant increase in the suicide rate immediately following the release,” according to the data collected.

It concluded: “The increase in youth suicide rates that occurred after the initial release of 13 Reasons Why provides an example of potential unintended negative consequences of media portrayals of suicide that do not adhere to best practices.”

A number of universities, hospitals and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) were involved in carrying out the research.

“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” said author, Lisa Horowitz.

“All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises,” she added.

A third season of 13 Reasons Why has already filmed and is set to air later his year on Netflix.

If you need to talk, contact for free:

  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (available 24/7)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org (available 24/7)
  • Aware 1800 804848 (depression, anxiety)
  • Childline 1800 666666 (for under 18s, available 24/7)

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