Suicide’s “contagiousness” is complicated—studies on 13 Reasons Why prove it


Enlarge / Katherine Langford, Derek Luke, Dylan Minnette, Alisha Boe, Miles Heizer, and Brian Yorkey attend #NETFLIXFYSEE Event For “13 Reasons Why” Season 2 – Inside at Netflix FYSEE At Raleigh Studios on June 1, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif. (credit: Getty | Presley, Ann)

A study out this week suggests that the release of the first season of Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why series in 2017 led to a small but notable uptick in teen suicides. The finding seems to confirm widespread apprehensions among mental health experts and advocates that a suicide “contagion” could spread from the teen drama, which centers around a 17-year-old girl’s suicide and includes graphic details. But the study contains significant caveats, and the findings should be interpreted cautiously.

The study was published online by the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry and conducted by a research team led by epidemiologist Jeff Bridge at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. The researchers analyzed monthly suicide rates in the four years prior to the show’s March 31, 2017 release, plus post-release suicide rates through December 31, 2017.

The researchers concluded that in the month following the show’s initial release in April 2017, there was a 28.9 percent increase in suicides among 10- to 17-year-olds that would not have otherwise been predicted. They also found elevated rates in June and December of 2017, which they attributed to the show as well.

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