The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why has been associated with an increase in youth suicide following its release, research has found.
The television series is based on the 2007 best-selling novel by Jay Asher and follows the story of Clay (Dylan Minnette), who comes across 13 tapes recorded by classmate Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford) after she took her own life.
13 Reasons Why received polarising reviews for its often difficult-to-watch content, with viewers divided over how the show tackled issues such as mental health, rape, and suicide.
New research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found the show was linked to a 28.9 per cent increase in suicide rates among young people in the US aged 10-17, in the month following its release.
As per EurekAlert!, the number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by researchers. 13 Reasons Why premiered on March 31 that year.
Conducted by researchers at several universities, hospitals, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the study also found the increase in suicide rates was mostly due to a significant increase in young males taking their own lives.
Although suicide rates for young females did increase after the show’s release, this increase wasn’t statistically significant – unlike those for the males between the age of 10 and 17.
The author of the study, Lisa Horowitz, PhD, a clinical scientist in the NIMH Intramural Research Program, emphasised that the results of this study point to the fact that young people are vulnerable with regards to what they see in the media.
Dr Horowitz said, as per EurekAlert!:
The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media. All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.
The researchers did not find any significant trends in suicide rates in people aged between 18 and 64, giving Dr Horowitz’s point more credence.
Last year, it was announced the show would be renewed for a third season on Netflix, leading many to call for its cancellation after a graphic male rape scene was aired in the final episode of the second series.
When Tyler was subjected to a sexual assault by school bully Monty, leaving him distraught and crying in the toilets, US pressure group Parents Television Council (PTC) issued an ‘urgent warning’ over the scene and demanded Netflix pull the show from its services, Vulture reports.
The series is still set to go ahead though, with the third season expected to premiere later this year.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues, and want to speak to someone in confidence, please don’t suffer alone. Call Samaritans for free on their anonymous 24-hour phone line on 116 123.
If you’re experiencing distressing thoughts and feelings, the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is there to support you. They’re open from 5pm–midnight, 365 days a year. Their national number is 0800 58 58 58, and they also have a webchat service if you’re not comfortable talking on the phone.