Remember “13 Reasons Why,” Netflix’s controversial show about a teen’s suicide? Many felt the show’s depiction of suicide and depression was inaccurate and irresponsible, while others felt like it accurately showed the ugliness of rape, bullying and suicide. A few months back, a 23-year-old was speculated to have died by suicide, using the show as inspiration.
Here’s how it worked: John W. Ayers, who is an epidemiologist at San Diego State University, took a look at over 600,000 news articles and more than 11 million tweets about the show during the first three weeks its premiere.
He told Wired:
“There was a tremendous amount of debate going on all based on deeply personal experiences that wasn’t going anywhere.”
As Gizmodo pointed out, the “show was criticized for not following the World Health Organization’s guidelines for responsible depictions of suicide, as well as its lack of discussion about mental illness. Critics worried that its treatment of the subject would do more harm than good for young and vulnerable viewers.”
Ayers found, from Google trends data, rather telling connections, and here’s what it boils down to: searches for suicide, and suicidal ideation, were 19 percent higher than usual–“How to commit suicide” had a 26 percent increase, while “suicide songs” had 50 percent increase. Of course, there is a lot that can’t necessarily be explained from the data–and could be circumstantial for other factors and reasons as well–but the evidence is still disconcerting. Here’s one silver lining: there were also higher searches for “suicide hotline number” (21 percent) and “suicide prevention” (23 percent).
Ayers believes the show isn’t “worth the risk” and should be taken off the air, as he told Motherboard. Considering a second season is already in production for release in 2018, that probably won’t happen.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit their website.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.