Another study was recently released potentially linking the popular Netflix show “13 Reasons Why” to rising suicide rates in young people. Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, authors Till, Stack and Niederkrotenthaler found that 94 more kids ages 10-19 died in the following months (April-June) than was expected. While the authors do point out that there is no way to accurately track whether these increases in suicides are directly related to the show, or whether those that died even watched the show itself, it is concerning that this unexpected rise happened directly during the show’s runtime.
As stated, this is not the first study to track this rise, with another having found a similar increase just a few weeks ago. With both studies indicating such a popular show about such a complicated subject could be doing more harm than good, we have to ask ourselves: How exactly do you talk about this subject? Though the show wanted to spark conversation and bring to people’s attention a subject that often goes ignored, the fact that it may be having the opposite effect is of real concern.
The people most at risk of suicide are the ones suffering the most from the shows attempt at conversation, and at some point you have to wonder whether or not the good they’d hoped to do outweighs the bad they may be doing. If even one person saw “13 Reasons Why” and that pushed them over the edge and into suicide, then isn’t that already one person too many? Instead of taking a show and romanticizing someone taking their own life, wouldn’t the conversation have been better served if the protagonist had reached out and gotten help instead? When does adding warnings to the show stop being enough?
The creators of “13 Reasons Why” may have had the best intentions, and the show and its subject matter no doubt have sparked important conversations between people about sensitive subjects, but there are better ways to get that conversation started than subjecting it to narrative flair. Ways that can’t and won’t be linked to causing struggling people to make fatal mistakes. We may never know for certain that “13 Reasons Why” has a direct effect on suicide rates, but if there is even a small chance that it could, that’s a chance that’s already way too big. No “conversation” is worth somebody’s life. Netflix and the show’s creators should take a deep look at this data, decide whether they are okay with these implications, and then, try very hard to do better next time.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide, suffers from depression or is severely anxious, upset and needs someone willing to listen, there are people that would love to help you.
Crisis Text Line:
Text START to 741741 anytime about any problems you may be having.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at: 1-800-273-8255
Caleb Edwards is a senior studying professional writing with a focus in editing and publishing. When he isn’t working or writing you can find him tending his fish, taking care of his cats and dogs or trying to find free time that he can waste (there never is any). You can follow him on Twitter @CEdwardsSam or find him at his website CalebMEdwards.com