Internet Searches for Suicide Surged After ’13 Reasons Why’ Release

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Netflix’s hit TV series 13 Reasons Why quickly became a pop-cultural hit but, also opened the discussion of suicide, bullying and rape. In the season finale of the hit TV series the character Hannah Baker kills herself in a prolonged three-minute scene.

Even though the story is told through flashbacks, the graphic scene is tough to watch. Now, new research suggests that the show could have triggered people to have suicidal thoughts.

The 13-episode series, which were released all at once in true Netflix fashion, centers around 13 tapes that Hannah sends to those who she blames for her actions. In April, it set the record for the most-tweeted-about show in 2017, when it was mentioned more than 11 million times within three weeks of its March 31 launch.

A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has found that within the same three weeks, Internet searches about suicide were significantly higher than expected.

“Our analyses suggest 13 Reasons Why, in its present form, has both increased suicidal awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation,” the authors wrote. “The most rising queries focused on suicidal ideation. For instance, ‘how to commit suicide’, ‘commit suicide’ and ‘how to kill yourself’ were all significantly higher.”

Researchers also report suicide queries were up 19 percent in the 19 days following the show’s release, “reflecting 900,000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected,” the paper reported.

John Ayers, professor of public health at San Diego State University, wanted to analyze how the show impacted people after it sparked a debate between the show’s creators and mental health professionals about how the show depicts violence and suicide.

Past studies have validated that Internet searches mirror real-world suicide rates, so suicide rates have likely gone up as a result of this program,” said Ayers. “For me, as a data-driven public health scientist, I see this troubling data as a strong call to action. The show must be taken down.”

The Washington Post reports, Netflix replied in a statement saying: “We always believed this show would increase discussion around this tough subject matter. This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for Season 2.”

That said, Netflix has since released warnings ahead of its three most graphic episodes, including the suicide scene and links to suicide prevention websites and a hotline.

Production for the new season has already started. In fact, Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has held open casting calls for the new season of the show.

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