Is ’13 Reasons Why’ Helping Kids Kill Themselves?

Is ’13 Reasons Why’ Helping Kids Kill Themselves?

MEDPAGE TODAY–Researchers see a link between upswing in suicide info searches and Netflix show. Internet searches linked to suicide spiked following the airing of Netflix’s controversial teen drama “13 Reasons Why,” which tells the story of a high school student who kills herself. Using what they called a “quasi-experimental” approach, researchers compared actual Internet search volumes for 20 queries which included the word “suicide” after the 13-episode television show was released March 31, with an estimate of the number of such searches that would have been expected if the show had not aired (from daily trends from Jan. 15-March 30, 2017). Searches increased for terms associated with suicidal ideation, including “teen suicide,” “how to commit suicide,” and “suicidal thoughts,” as well as for seeking help terms including “suicide hotline,” and “suicide hotline number,” reported John W. Ayers, PhD, of San Diego State University, and colleagues July 31 in a JAMA Internal Medicine research letter. In particular, the analysis showed a 19% cumulative increase in queries for the suicide terms included (95% CI 14%-24%) during the 19 days following series’ online release, “reflecting 900,000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected,” the researchers wrote. “Our analyses suggest ’13 Reasons Why,’ in its present form, has both increased suicide awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation,” they concluded. The show has been praised as an honest depiction of issues commonly faced by teenagers, including bullying and sexual assault. But it has also been strongly criticized by some mental health practitioners who say it romanticizes teen suicide. Netflix has announced that it will air a second season of the show. “The debate about the potential impacts of ’13...

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