Watching the Netflix show ‘13 Reasons Why’ had increased suicide risk in teens, says a University of Michigan study.
The hit drama, widely popular among teens, has generated controversy for its depiction of suicide. Its story centres around a 17-year-old student, who, before her death, recorded cassettes that detail 13 reasons why she took her own life.
The show has raised concerns among mental health experts about its potentially negative impact on vulnerable youths.
“This show has been a real phenomenon, especially among teenagers,” says lead author Victor Hong, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Michigan Medicine. “Its depiction of teen suicide has raised great concern among parents, health providers and educators.”
Of the 87 youths who participated in the survey, half had watched at least one episode of the show, mostly teens ages 13 to 17. Among the 43 who had watched it, about half said it heightened their suicide risk.
“Study doesn’t confirm that the show is increasing suicide risk, but it confirms that we should definitely be concerned about its impact on impressionable and vulnerable youth,” says Hong.
“Few believe this type of media exposure will take kids who are not depressed and make them suicidal. The concern is about how this may negatively impact youth who are already teetering on the edge.”
The study also found that the majority of surveyed youth who had seen the show viewed it alone and were more likely to discuss their reactions with peers (81 per cent) than with a parent (35 per cent).
A second season of ‘13 Reasons Why,’ which debuted in May, opens with a disclaimer urging young viewers to watch the show with a trusted adult — and the importance of seeking help.
Still, very few parents in the survey sample had watched the series themselves; some were unaware that their child had watched it.