Back in early 2017, the Selena Gomez-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why had many Bay Area parents and school administrators concerned about its apparent glamorization of teen suicide. Now a study suggests that there was a statistically anomalous spike in suicides among teen boys in the month after the show's premiere.
The Bay Area-set show premiered March 31, 2017 on Netflix, and in late June, two Bay Area families had come forward to say that their teen daughters had taken their own lives shortly after watching the series.
Now, as the New York Times reports, while the teen's suicide depicted on the show is a young girl's, the rate of female teen suicide showed no spike after the show's premiere — but suicide rates among boys aged 10 to 17 spiked to their highest point in five years during the month of April 2017. Afterward, they settled back down into typical trends, however the rate among boys "remained elevated" for a year.
This data came in a study published Monday in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and Netflix responded by saying that the study conflicts with this one published last week, which suggests the show had both "harmful and helpful effects" on teens.
"This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly," a spokesperson for Netflix said, in a statement to the Times.
The show, based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Jay Asher, premiered its second season in May 2018, and is due to have a third season, which is currently in production.
A 2017 study pubished in JAMA Internal Medicine also found that there was a notable uptick in internet searches for suicide-related topics in the months after the premiere of the show.
In reacting to some of the backlash in 2017, show creator Brian Yorkey put a statement saying, "Many people are accusing the show of glamorizing suicide, and I feel very strongly that we did the exact opposite. What we did was portray suicide and we portrayed it as very ugly and very damaging."
If you are in crisis, text "BAY" to 741741 for free, 24/7, confidential crisis support from Crisis Text Line. And if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, you or they should call the San Francisco Suicide Prevention crisis line at 415-781-0500.
If someone you know exhibits warning signs of suicide: do not leave the person alone; remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt; and call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional.