Rise in Youth Suicide After Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why

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From the 2001 Cerebrum essay, “Suicide in the Young” by Kay Redfield Jamison, Ph.D.  Illustration © Kristina Swarner

On March 31, 2017, a controversial series called, 13 Reasons Why premiered on Netflix. The show tells the story of a young high schooler who commits suicide and leaves behind a series of 13 cassette tapes for the people she held responsible. In the month following the show’s 2017 release, mental health experts, superintendents, and school counselors criticized the series for its glorification of suicide and worried it would lead to an increase in copycat behavior of self-harm among vulnerable individuals. After researchers examined data from the past five years, the show was found to be linked to a spike in suicide rates among US youths aged 10-17.

The National Institutes of Health published the study earlier this week, conducted by researchers at universities, hospitals, and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). They examined whether the show’s release impacted rates of suicide, based on annual and monthly data on suicide-related deaths of individuals between ages 10 and 64 that occurred between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2017—a time span encompassing the period before and after the show’s first 13 episodes. Continue reading

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