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Netflix drama '13 Reasons Why' linked to suicidal thoughts

01 Août 2017

CDC info on its free database of deaths by cause only goes through 2015, so Ayers isn't able to definitively show whether or not suicides increased after the show's release. But the researchers also saw an increase in searches related to suicide awareness, including "suicide hotline number" and "suicide prevention". The show is based on a novel by Jay Asher.

"When people are searching for terms like "how to commit suicide" or 'painless suicide, ' sadly that's a step on the path of a suicide", Ayers tells Newsweek.

Some of the data indicates that 13 Reasons Why may have helped some viewers.

It's not confirmed that the searches led to actual suicides, but in their paper the authors cite a prior study that found an association of suicide search trends and actual suicides in Taipei City, Taiwan.

In the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Ayers and his colleagues at San Diego State University, analyzed Google Trends, which is a public archive that shows how often a particular search-term, keyword, or phrase is entered over a specific period of time.

Ayers told Chicago Tribune that other studies have validated that Internet queries mirror real-world suicide rates, so these rates were likely to have increased as a result of the program. Ayers, on the other hand, says he has canceled his Netflix subscription, despite the service's May 1 decision to add content warnings to the show. This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this.

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All suicide queries were 19 percent higher than expected following the show.

Recently, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert M. Avossa wrote a letter to parents saying school district personnel had been observing an increase in youth at-risk behavior in elementary and middle schools, including self-mutilation, threats of suicide, and several Baker Act incidents. Despite these measures, the researchers wrote that Netflix and the 13 Reasons Why team could have done more to reduce suicidal ideations among its viewers. The show, which has begun filming a second season, created a behind-the-scenes documentary called "Beyond the Reasons", which discusses mental health and the reasons the producers believe the show should create a positive dialogue.

"I personally have seen multiple psychiatric admissions where the admission note details the fact that the teen said that they wanted to 'kill myself the way the girl in 13 Reasons Why did, '" said O'Brien.

"This strategy allows us to isolate any effect "13 Reasons Why" had on how the public engaged with and thought of suicide", said study co-author Benjamin Althouse, a research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington. For example, the show could remove scenes depicting suicide and include suicide hotline numbers in each episode.

Netflix drama '13 Reasons Why' linked to suicidal thoughts