Study examines youth suicides after ’13 Reasons Why’

Bottom Line: The popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” was controversial for its portrayal of the suicide of a 17-year-old girl. This study, called a time series analysis, used suicide data before and after the show’s release in 2017 to estimate suicides among different age groups (10 to 19, 20 to 29, and 30 or older for females and males in the U.S.) and to identify changes in the specific methods of suicide used. The authors report an estimated 13 percent increase in suicide among individuals 10 to 19 in the three months after the show’s release, which corresponds to 94 more suicides than would be expected. Gender-specific analyses suggest larger proportional increases among females. No similar increase in suicide was seen among the other age groups. The results of this study should be interpreted with caution, in part because the study was based on data that makes it impossible to know whether people who died from suicide had actually watched the show. However, the results point to the need for public health and suicide experts to work with the entertainment industry to prevent harmful portrayals of suicide. Individuals thinking about suicide or worried about someone else can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Authors: Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, M.D., Ph.D., M.M.Sc., of the Medical University of Vienna, Center for Public Health, Vienna, Austria, and coauthors

(doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2019.0922)

Editor’s Note: The article contains conflict of interest and funding/support disclosures. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

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