The Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" elevated suicide awareness, a new published study shows, but "it is concerning" that searches on how to kill yourself also rose.
"13 Reasons Why" was popular enough that they're now working on Season 2, but it was also a controversy lightning rod, with allegations that it glamorized suicide. So it sparked a study, and a research paper titled "Internet Searches for Suicide Following the Release of 13 Reasons Why" was recently published by The JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network.
The study was led by three people with fancy titles -- John W. Ayers, PhD, Benjamin M. Althouse, PhD, and Eric C. Leas, PhD -- but it was based on Google Trends, looking at search terms for "suicide," and excluding unrelated results, like those also mentioning "squad" for the DC film.
Here's a look at the results (CI stands for confidence interval, with 95% CI being a common confidence level used in research):
All suicide queries were cumulatively 19% (95% CI, 14%-24%) higher for the 19 days following the release of '13 Reasons Why,' reflecting 900 000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected (Figure). For 12 of the 19 days studied, suicide queries were significantly greater than expected, ranging from 15% (95% CI, 3%-32%) higher on April 15, 2017, to 44% (95% CI, 28%-65%) higher on April 18, 2017.
Seventeen of the top 20 related queries were higher than expected, with most rising queries focused on suicidal ideation. For instance, "how to commit suicide" (26%; 95% CI, 12%-42%), "commit suicide" (18%; 95% CI, 11%-26%), and "how to kill yourself" (9%; 95% CI, 4%-14%) were all significantly higher. Queries for suicide hotlines were also elevated, including "suicide hotline number" (21%; 95% CI, 1%-44%) and "suicide hotline" (12%; 95% CI, 5%-19%). Last, public awareness indicative searches, such as "suicide prevention" (23%; 95% CI, 6%-40%) or "teen suicide" (34%; 95% CI, 17%-52%), were elevated.
How to interpret these search results? In their "Discussion" section, the authors acknowledge "It is unclear whether any query preceded an actual suicide attempt. However, suicide search trends are correlated with actual suicides, media coverage of suicides concur with increased suicide attempts, and searches for precise suicide methods increased after the series' release."
The study included ideas for possibly stopping the darker side effects of the show, and said more "surveillance" will clarify their findings. But their bottom line alleges that "'13 Reasons Why,' in its present form, has both increased suicide awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation."
Meanwhile, "13 Reasons Why" Season 2 is in the works, and fans will have to see if the increased attention changes how the show handles portraying suicide.
Want more stuff like this? Like us on Facebook.