The Netflix original series 13 Reasons Why has been very polarizing for viewers since it debuted on the streaming platform back in 2017. Some people see the show about a high school girl's path to suicide as a vehicle for an important message about anti-bullying and suicide prevention, but others see the show as a threat to a younger demographic seeing the graphic imagery related to subjects like suicide, rape, bullying, and drug use. A new study by the University of Michigan gives some more support to the latter.
The findings show that the polarizing show may have increased the risk of teen suicide. The study surveyed 87 teenagers, the majority of them female, who were treated for suicide-related concerns in 2017 and 2018. Results of the survey showed that 49 percent of the teens had seen an episode of 13 Reasons Why and 84 percent of them watched the show alone. Over half of those who viewed the show said that they identified with main character Hannah Baker, and felt the show increased the risk of them committing suicide.
While the authors of the study feel that more research needs to be done to confirm their theory, they do maintain that "the findings suggest a particular vulnerability to the show’s themes among youths at risk of suicide." For those of you who haven't binge-watched it yet, the show's plot revolves around a series of cassette tapes recorded by Baker before her death that document all of the people that she felt wronged her before she ultimately took her own life.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Victor Hong, spoke with Buzzfeed about his findings. He said that he decided to move forward with the research after a, "significant uptick in terms of the volume of teens coming in with suicidal issues," that made mention of the show.
Hong hopes that this information will nudge producers in Hollywood to be more cautious with serious subject matter like suicide when creating its teen programming in the future. "I believe that a lot of these producers are consulting mental health experts, what I am not sure of is if they are actually heeding their recommendations," he said.