The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why which depicted the tale of a teenage girl’s suicide and adolescent plight might have impressed the critics but not the health experts. According to a report in The New York Times, the show has made the topic appealing to some young people.
Reaffirming their fear, a new study has deduced that suicide rates among boys within the age group of 10 to 17 increased after the release of the series. In the last five years, April 2017 apparently documented the highest overall suicide rate for this age group.
The study, posted by the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, has further thickened the debate regarding how favourable the show is.
“Suicide is a problem worldwide, and it’s so hard to knock these rates down. The last thing we need is something that increases them,” Lisa M Horowitz, an author of the paper and staff scientist in the National Institute of Mental Health’s Intramural Research Program was quoted as saying.
A Netflix spokesperson too put out a 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,” which focused on young adults. This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”
The new study, however, is correlational. This implies it could not be identified by the authors if the suicide of the viewer was actually influenced by watching the show. However, in order to arrive at the conclusion, the researchers took into consideration seasonal differences in suicide rates, and recent trends.
“They nicely controlled for this by looking across years and showing a discontinuity for this particular year only,” said Matthew K Nock, a psychologist at Harvard said.
The team led by Jeffrey A Bridge, of the Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, examined suicide data from the Center for Disease Control between January 2013 and December 2017. The team, after correcting for trends and seasonal effects, deduced that the rates did not exceed the expected levels in 2017 for those over age 18. However, for those between the age of 10 to 17, the rate increased to nearly 30 per cent in April 2017.
“This is the first report I’ve seen like this, and of course it was our greatest fear that this might be a possibility with the show,” Dr Victor Schwartz, chief medical officer at the JED Foundation, a teen suicide prevention group said.