Watching ’13 Reasons Why’ May Be Increasing Teens’ Suicide Risk

This is the first study to look at how 13 Reasons Why affects teens already at high risk of suicide.

Netflix 13 Reasons Why

Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why has been a controversial show from the get-go, with many experts and organisations warning that its portrayal of teen suicide has the potential to be dangerous. And now, we have some numbers to back that up: a new study released yesterday suggests that watching 13 Reasons Why is increasing suicide risk for teens already at risk of suicide.

The study, published in the journal Psychiatric Services, surveyed 87 young people who presented to psychiatric emergency departments with suicide-related concerns in the year following the release of the first season of 13 Reasons Why. Of the 87 surveyed, approximately half had seen at least one episode of the show, and 51 percent of those viewers said they believed the show had increased their suicide risk.

These findings are pretty different to the findings of a study Netflix commissioned on 13 Reasons Why back in March, which focused on how teens related to the show.

The March study found that around three quarters of teen viewers found the show relatable, that 58 percent of those viewers had talked to their parents about the show, and that 77 percent of viewers would have liked the show to provide more information and resources at the end of episodes (something the show now does, sort of, with a warning before episodes and a website of resources it promotes on social media.

The study released yesterday, however, is the first study to ask teens already at high risk of suicide whether they feel the show increased that risk. Given that it’s the only study on the topic so far, take it with a grain of salt, but its findings suggest that watching the show does actually increase the suicide risk for around half of the at-risk kids watching.

That’s a worry, and supports what critics of the show have been saying all along: maybe don’t make a show about suicide that ignores so many of the suicide prevention measures experts warned about from the start.

If you need support, both Lifeline on 13 11 14 and the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 offer 24-hour assistance. For further information about youth mental health, both Headspace and Reach Out can provide guidance. You can also talk to a medical professional or someone you trust.