Netflix Has Responded to the Teen Suicide Spike After “13 Reasons Why”
The streaming service plans to "handle this sensitive issue responsibly."
Earlier this week, a concerning new study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reported that teen suicide rates had spiked since March 2017, increasing by nearly 29 percent. The study, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, has furthered an ongoing debate about 13 Reasons Why, a popular Netflix series that launched on March 31, 2017. The hit show—which centers on a teenage girl recounting what led to her decision to commit suicide through a series of tapes—has been accused of glamorizing suicide for its young adult viewers.
The new JAACAP study found that more suicides occurred among boys aged 10 to 17 in April 2017 than in the last five years. No significant differences in suicide trends were found for teenage girls or for adults aged 18 and over.
Netflix has responded to the news with the following statement: “We’ve just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania. This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”
The University of Pennsylvania study asked 729 young adults aged 18 to 29 to complete surveys after the release of the second season of 13 Reasons Why in May 2018. They found “viewers who stopped watching the second season exhibited greater suicide risk and less optimism about the future than those who continued to the end.” Researchers also said that those who “watched the entire second season reported declines in suicide ideation and self-harm relative to those who did not watch the show at all.”
The University of Pennsylvania study is notable because it only surveyed people who watched 13 Reasons Why, but it also focused on a more mature age group that one could argue is better equipped to deal with its content. The new JAACAP study sheds more light on the age group that might be most vulnerable to the show’s narrative, but it’s limited by the fact that it didn’t determine whether or not the teens in question had actually watched 13 Reasons Why, and therefore can’t establish that it had a direct impact on the rise in suicide.
In a 2018 interview, Ross Butler, who plays a pivotal role in the show’s second season, told Best Life that 13 Reasons Why is “controversial because it makes people uncomfortable, but the fact that people are uncomfortable with some of the things that we’re seeing and talking about means that it needs to be talked about.”
The rise in teen suicide is a matter of great concern in America today, with many experts believing that various forms of technology are at least partially to blame. For more on this, read Distressing New Study That Says Young Americans Are Plagued by Loneliness.
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