Netflix’s breakout hit 13 Reasons Why enjoyed enormous success in the early days of its release and was greeted with positive reviews from viewers and critics. However, the tables began to turn for the show when some viewers began to criticize it for glamorizing suicide and showing a graphic suicide scene. A recent study revealed that internet searches for suicide went up after the show premiered.
A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that within the first three weeks of 13 Reasons Why’s release on March 31, internet searches for suicide showed a significant increase.
“Our analyses suggest 13 Reasons Why, in its present form, has both increased suicidal awareness while unintentionally increasing suicidal ideation,” proponents of the study wrote.
They added that the suicide-related queries focused on suicidal ideation, with some of the most frequently-used keywords being “how to commit suicide,” “commit suicide,” and “how to kill yourself.”
Statistically, suicide-related searches increased by 19 percent in the 19 days after 13 Reasons Why came out on Netflix. This number reflected “900,000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected.”
John Ayers, a professor of public health at San Diego State University and one of the researchers who conducted the study, decided to look at the impact of 13 Reasons Why after it sparked a global debate between mental health professionals, school administrators, and parents about how it potentially negatively influences teenagers, the target audience of the show.
Ayers said the data is troubling since past studies have proven that internet searches on suicide reflect actual suicide rates in the real world.
13 Reasons Why was given a TV-MA rating, and Netflix specifically added warnings at the beginning of Episodes 9, 12, and 13 — all of which contained explicit material. Despite these measures, the researchers wrote that Netflix and the 13 Reasons Why team could have done more to reduce suicidal ideations among its viewers.
In response to the study, Netflix said in a statement, “We always believed this show would increase discussion around this tough subject matter. This is an interesting quasi-experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for Season 2.”
In April, two teenagers in California committed suicide after reportedly watching the Netflix show. According to Fox News, the grieving families blamed the show for acting as the trigger to the suicides.
Priscilla Chui battled with depression and struggled in school when she died days after watching 13 Reasons Why. Peter Chui, the deceased’s uncle, told KTVU that the two-minute scene where the lead character, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), slit her wrists in the bathtub probably was the trigger for Priscilla to commit suicide due to its very graphic nature.
Another suicide being linked to the show was that of a 23-year-old in Peru who allegedly mimicked the show’s plot when he jumped from the fourth floor of his apartment building and left behind two suicide notes and some recordings. The man, identified as Franco Alonso Lazo, left one goodbye note to a loved one named Claudia and another note that had instructions and names of people to whom the tapes were to be given, People reported. The names on the paper were allegedly the ones who pushed him into taking his own life.
Although it hasn’t been proven if Lazo’s suicide was inspired by 13 Reasons Why, many took note of the similarities between his death and that of Hannah Baker’s on the show.
Following the backlash surrounding the series, 13 Reasons Why executive producer Selena Gomez defended it and called it an honest depiction of the realities some teenagers are facing.
“I think that stuff is uncomfortable for people to talk about, but it is happening and hopefully it opened the door for people to actually accept what’s happening and actually go and change it, talk about it,” Gomez said in an interview, Rolling Stone reported.
13 Reasons Why Season 2 is expected to premiere on Netflix in 2018.
[Featured Image by Netflix]