STUDY SAYS SUI­CIDE SEARCHES SPIKED AF­TER “13 REA­SONS”

The Denver Post - - NEWS -

In the sea­son fi­nale of the pop­u­lar Net­flix TV se­ries “13 Rea­sons Why,” 17-year-old stu­dent Han­nah Baker kills her­self in a pro­longed three-minute scene.

Even though the en­tire story, much of it told through flash­backs, has been lead­ing up to this mo­ment, and view­ers al­ready know Han­nah is dead, the graphic se­quence is a tor­ment to watch. New re­search sug­gests that the show — per­haps this very scene — could have trig­gered sui­ci­dal thoughts in its view­ers, many of whom are young peo­ple.

The 13-episode se­ries, which was re­leased all at once, chron­i­cles 13 tapes that Han­nah sends to those she blames for her ac­tions. The se­ries has cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of kids across the coun­try. In April, it set a 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.

Now 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.”

Over­all, sui­cide queries were 19 percent higher in the 19 days af­ter the se­ries’ 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, de­cided to an­a­lyze the im­pact of the show af­ter it sparked a spir­ited de­bate be­tween its cre­ators and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als and ed­u­ca­tors about its po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­flu­ence on chil­dren. His goal was to use near-real-time data to as­sess any dam­age quickly.

“Past stud­ies have val­i­dated that In­ter­net searches mir­ror re­al­world 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.”

Net­flix in­cluded warn­ings be­fore its three most graphic episodes, in­clud­ing the fi­nale with the sui­cide scene, and links to sui­cide pre­ven­tion web­sites and a hot­line.

Beth Dubber, Net­flix

Kather­ine Langford por­trays Han­nah Baker in a scene from the Net­flix se­ries “13 Rea­sons Why.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.