A new study is showing that the rate of suicides among teens hit an all-time high after the release of the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. The show, based on the novel by Jay Asher of the same name, details the story of a high school student named Hannah Baker who took her own life and the series of events that lead up to it. When the series, which featured Selena Gomez as an executive producer, debuted in 2017 schools around the country sent home notices asking parents to be vigilant about allowing their children to watch, and encouraging them to have open dialogues about the subject matter.
Netflix even filmed PSA's around the subject matter that aired before each episode and provided resources for those who felt they may need it.
The study, published in the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that there was a "significant increase" in the monthly rates of suicide in children between the ages of 10 and 17 following the release of the series. The suicide rate among that age group reached a 19-year high with 195 more suicides in the 9 months following the show's release than was predicted, USA Today reports. The study also states that there were more deaths by suicide in April of 2017 than there were in that month in the past nine years and that the rate among boys in that age group rose by 28% . 13 Reasons Why debuted in March of 2017.
The study did point out there is no way to attribute the spike in suicides to the Netflix series as there is no way to tell if any of the victims even watched the show. “Few believe this type of media exposure will take kids who are not depressed and make them suicidal,” lead author Dr. Victor Hong, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at the University of Michigan said. “The concern is about how this may negatively impact youth who are already teetering on the edge.”
NIMH-supported study finds #13RW associated w/ increased youth suicide rates, highlighting the importance of responsible portrayal of suicide by media. More research needed on how & why this happens, & approaches to minimize harmful entertainment messaging https://t.co/quymKtCm6a— Mental Health NIMH (@NIMHgov) April 29, 2019
"We've just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week's study from the University of Pennsylvania," a spokesperson for Netflix said in response to this latest study. "This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly." The study that Netflix is referring to was released last week and found that those who watched the second season were less likely to harm themselves than if they hadn't watched.
Lisa Horowitz, a co-author, and researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health told USA Today that teen suicide is a "major public health crisis" and said that parents need to be more vigilant about having open conversations with their children. "Start a conversation, ask how are they coping with the ups and downs of life, and don't be afraid to ask about suicide," she said. "One of the best ways to prevent is to ask."
The study itself echoes that sentiment suggesting that "caution regarding the exposure of children and adolescents to the series is warranted."
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