Is ’13 Reasons Why’ Causing A Suicide Spike?

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A study has revealed that Google searches of the word suicide, and other related terms have surged since the airing of Netflix's series "13 Reasons Why."

Pretty much everyone knows about the controversial Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” even if they haven’t seen the actual show.

This past spring, the 13-episode series depicted the suicide of a fictional teenager named Hannah, and chronicled 13 tapes the teen sent to those she blames for her death.

Despite the show's soaring popularity, a new analysis revealed that the number of Google searches using the term “suicide,” have surged since show's beginning — and that’s a huge cause for concern.

Published in JAMA International Medicine, the study found that since the show launched, inquiries about how to commit suicide, and about suicide in general, have spiked. The study was led by John W. Ayers, an associate research professor at San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health.

Ayers states, “Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization’s validated media guidelines for preventing suicide.”

Those guidelines include the removal of scenes that depict a suicide taking place and making sure that on each episode, the number of the suicide hotline is shown.

Ayers and the rest of his colleagues said that if "13 Reasons Why" isn't following the WHO's recommendations, then the program should be removed from Netflix's site. 

To measure the impact of the series, Ayers and his colleagues used the analytic tool Google Trends to track internet searches using the term “suicide,” as well as related terms, from the time the show was released until April 18, 2017.

What the study found was that some of the spike in searches came from those seeking help, with searches like "suicide prevention” and “suicide hotline” increasing by 23 percent and 12 percent. Even more troubling were searches for “how to commit suicide” increasing to 26 percent, “commit suicide” going up by 18 percent, and “how to kill yourself” increasing by 9 percent.

"While it's heartening that the series' release concurred with increased awareness of suicide and suicide prevention ... our results back up the worst fears of the show's critics: The show may have inspired many to act on their suicidal thoughts by seeking out information on how to commit suicide,” Ayers said, adding that it's unknown if any of the internet searches led to actual suicides.

This show tackles a lot of serious topics and gives its viewers a harsh look at reality, which many fictional shows do not. But hopefully, "13 Reasons Why" can spark conversations and be portrayed in the future as something more positive and less debatable.  

Banner/thumbnail image credit: Pexels user gratisography.com

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