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Study proves Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ increased risk of teen suicide

A survey conducted by the University of Michigan has found that the controversial Netflix series, 13 Reasons Why, increases the risk of suicide amongst vulnerable youth.

The TV drama has generated controversy for its depiction of suicide, as the series centers around a 17-year-old student, who before her death, records cassettes detailing 13 reasons behind taking her own life.

The premise of the show and its depiction of suicide has and continues to raise concerns amongst mental health experts who argue that the show has the potential to negatively impact impressionable young viewers.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JebwYGn5Z3E

The study was conducted in the psychiatric emergency department at Michigan Medicine and featured the responses from 87 young people between the ages of 13 and 17, plus a parent or guardian, of each participant.

Michigan Medicine researchers developed a 44-item questionnaire for those who had seen the show to evaluate several aspects of youths’ engagements with the series’ content. Teens who were hadn’t watched the series were not asked additional questions.

Half of the show viewers in the hospital sample stated the controversial television series contributed to their suicide risk. Though some youth who were a part of the sample hadn’t seen the series, 13 Reasons Why, after its release in March 2017, developed into a cultural phenomenon amongst teens.

 

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They take one photo and it defines you.

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Made famous by the series, the phrase “Welcome to your tape,” became a trend on social media, in addition to postings of teen girls wearing blue nail polish in honor of the main character, Hannah Baker.

When Michigan Medicine researchers asked suicidal adolescents whether the show had contributed to suicide-related symptoms, teen viewers noted their identification with the protagonist Hannah Baker, as a primary factor in their engagement with the series.

Victor Hong, the medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Michigan Medicine, stated that,

“The main character is easy to identify with. She’s a teen girl who has suffered from sexual assault, bullying, and anxiety -which, unfortunately, impact too many of our youth today.”

 

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You never know how what you do will affect someone else.

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Cultural critics of the show maintain that the series glamorizes suicide, with some critics of the show additionally citing the graphic depiction of sexual assault as having a negative impact amongst young viewers.

Nonetheless, this recent study is a part of a larger body of literature amongst mental health experts that have highlighted the negative impact the series has on viewers. A study in the same year the series was released had found that Google searches for “suicide” and “suicide methods” had spiked after the series’ release.

While medical experts are not broadcasting that the show directly increases suicide risk, they do stress that the show has implications for viewers who are struggling with mental health.

 

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Your life makes a difference.

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Given that mental health is an issue that is particularly endemic to the youth demographic, with 1 in 5 young people suffering from some form of mental illness, it is well founded that experts in the field side with caution and warning over the series.

It is for this reason that medical researchers advocate the need for further research to assess how media content that focuses on youth suicide can influence the mental health and heighten the risk of suicide amongst viewers.

Though the second season was released in May and includes a viewer discretion warning, advising the show to be watched with an adult present, the show’s treatment of suicide remains a heavily debated topic.

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