Tech

Is '13 Reasons Why' Helping Kids Kill Themselves?

Is '13 Reasons Why' Helping Kids Kill Themselves?

The team then compared those phrases' search frequency over that time frame with a hypothetical scenario in which the "13 Reasons Why" series had never been released, based on forecasts using historical search trends.

Google search volumes for things like "how to commit suicide", "commit suicide" and "how to kill yourself" all decisively spiked during the 19-day window after the show's release. Searches for "suicide hotline number" and "suicide hotline" increased by 21 percent and 12 percent respectively, while there was a 23 percent increase for the search terms "suicide prevention" and a 34 percent increase for "teen suicide".

A 2011 study in Taiwan found an association between internet search trends and actual suicides, and a 2003 study examined how the media coverage of people killing themselves can influence "copycat" suicides.

The authors wanted the series retro-fitted with these changes, and included in the planned second season.

Searches increased for terms associated with suicidal ideation, including "teen suicide", "how to commit suicide", and "suicidal thoughts", as well as for seeking help terms including "suicide hotline", and "suicide hotline number", reported John W. Ayers, PhD, of San Diego State University, and colleagues July 31 in a JAMA Internal Medicine research letter. After the series stirred much debate due to its frank and graphic content, a team of researchers chose to analyze whether the the show encouraged the public to search the internet for information related to suicide.

The series, which premiered March 31, centers on a fictional high-school teen who commits suicide and leaves behind cassette tapes she recorded for those she says were responsible for her death. He found that the increase in searches that related to suicidal ideation were the most significant.

Critics of the series say it shows suicide as an inevitable conclusion to the "adversities" of life.

More news: Women to be tried for Kim Jong Nam murder in October

When 13 Reasons Why became a phenomenon back in March, people had mixed feelings about whether it glorified suicide or was simply raising awareness. The mid-April cutoff date was chosen because it preceded the widely publicized suicide death of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez. "This is an interesting quasi experimental study that confirms this", Netflix said in a statement sent to USA media.

"This strategy allows us to isolate any effect "13 Reasons Why" had on how the public engaged with and thought of suicide", said study co-author Benjamin Althouse, a research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling in Bellevue, Washington.

"While many of our members find the show to be a valuable driver for starting important conversation with their families, we have also heard concern from those who feel the series should carry additional advisories", Netflix said in a statement. But Netflix executives defended it, saying the "tough" subject matter sparks much-needed discussion, adding that special warnings with suicide prevention contact information were given for the more graphic episodes. "We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for season two".

Madelyn Gould, a Columbia University suicide prevention researcher, noted the study design was less rigorous than some research methods, but said the results "should be taken seriously".

The cast of "13 Reasons Why".

If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.


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