A new study conducted in the US has revealed nearly a 30% increase in suicide rates among teenagers after the release of the show 13 Reasons Why.
The report, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, notes that there was a significant rise in the teenage suicide rate during the month of April 2017. The figures come as a shocking result of the debut of the show 13 Reasons Why.
13 Reasons Why is a Netflix original that’s based on the book of the same name written by Jay Asher. The plot focuses around the story of high-school freshman Clay Jensen after he receives a series of tapes from a fellow student who had committed suicide a week earlier. The cassette tapes detail the reasons that Hannah Baker chose to end her life, with each one of the thirteen tapes being attributed to a classmate who’s actions played a role in her decision.
The Study Shows 10-17 Year Olds Were Mainly Affected
To carry out the study, researchers assessed monthly suicide rates for individuals between the ages of 10 and 64 through the years of 2013 to 2017. This allowed them to collect data to compare the suicide rates before and after the release of the show, which was at the end of March 2017. The data was then split into three age groups.
The data that was collected revealed that there was a significant increase in the suicide rate among the youngest age group in April 2017. Throughout the following few months after the show was released, the suicide rate figures were also notably higher than there had been in the previous years. It’s assumed that there were approximately 200 more suicides in 2017 after the show premiered and hit the small screen.
A scientist at the National Institute of Mental Health who co-authored the study, Lisa Horowitz, stated that the study is definitely a cause for concern.
“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media.”Lisa Horowitz
When it first premiered, there was a large amount of controversy around the depiction of suicide in the series. In the final episode, the show portrays graphically portrays the moment that Hannah Baker takes her life. People soon raised alarm about the scene, with mental health professionals worrying that there would be an increase in copy-cat behaviour.
But, of course, since the show was popular enough, it got granted a second season, with the third season currently in production. In a somewhat cowardly move, Netflix’s CEO justified that the series was ‘engaging content’ and ‘nobody had to watch it’.
Netflix’s Response Is That The Show Is ‘Popular’
Personally, I think that’s a weak defence. Of course we have the ability to determine which media we consume, but Netflix should be aware that there are young watchers who are, despite their best efforts, going to watch the program despite the age restrictions. These young viewers are at a point of their lives where they’re still highly able to be influenced by the images and messages that they see portrayed through shows of the same nature.
Clearly, a 30% increase in teenage suicide rates as a result of the show being aired is a big issue. Is this spike in death not enough to show Netflix that they need to be more considerate about the messages that they’re putting out on such a public platform? Do they not notice that young viewer’s mental health is at risk?
Ironically, my Mother actually came home with a copy of the book earlier today, as she didn’t know whether I had read it or not and didn’t know about the controversy. I’ve started to read it and, so far, it’s more engaging than the show was. Though, I’m not sure if I’ll continue. While I did watch the show itself, I purposely avoided the last episode as I didn’t want to see that type of image glorified for shock value.
What do you think? Should Netflix take more responsibility, or is it the responsibility of the viewer themselves? Have you watched the show or read the book? If so, what did you think?
If you’re looking for a good show that represents mental health accurately, you can check out some of my recommendations right here.