• Spike in child suicides since release of '13 Reasons Why' on Netflix, study shows

    By: Leah Jordan

    Updated:

    The controversy surrounding the Netflix series “13 Reasons Why” is not new. 

    Since its debut in 2017, parents and researchers have gone back and forth as to whether the show is dangerous for youth. 

    Some argue that the show glamorizes suicide. This week, a new study found that in the month after the release of the series, the rate of suicide spiked for boys aged 10-17.  

    Suicide is the ninth leading cause of death in Tennessee, has increased every year statewide since 2014, and Tennessee’s suicide rate now tops the national rate, according to Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network’s 2019 study

    So, should kids be allowed to watch shows that feature suicide?

    Parents around the Mid-South that FOX13 spoke to have mixed feelings. 


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    “I don’t think they should be allowed to do that kind of thing. I think it hurts the future generations,” one man named John said. 

    Another father we spoke to said his daughter is only four, but if his daughter was older, he would watch it with her.

    “The adults definitely should consider what their children are watching,” Brandon Pipkin said. “I want to watch it to protect her and also inform her (that) it’s okay to talk to dad about what’s going on at all times.”   

    FOX13 reached out to multiple Mid-South doctors. None were available for an interview, but we did obtain video from Dr. Jeff Bridge, the director of the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

    “For a vulnerable youth watching this show, they may see that as… that could happen if they die by suicide. It’s sending the wrong message,” he said. 

    Dr. Bridge said shows like “13 Reasons Why” could have negative consequences for young people. 

    Researchers at Nationwide Children’s Hospital examined suicide rates among different age groups across the country and found there were about 195 more suicide deaths than expected among kids aged 10-17 in the nine months following the series’ premiere.

    FOX13 reached out to Netflix. They offered a statement, which reads:

    "We've just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania. This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”

    It’s important to note the new study finds an association between suicide and the show, but no causal relationship. 

    Additionally, there’s no way to know if the people who committed suicide ever actually watched the show. Researchers admitted they expected suicide rates to spike in girls, not boys (the protagonist who committed suicide in “13 Reasons Why” is a girl). 

    Finally, there were multiple high-profile celebrity suicides that happened in that same month, such as Aaron Hernandez. 

    Whether or not the television show caused the suicide spike may never truly be known to researchers.

    Regardless, suicide is an ever-present threat to young people in Tennessee. The Tennessee Suicide Prevention Network reports as of 2017, suicide is the second-leading cause of death for young people in Tennessee.

    Dr. Bridge said it’s always best to have open conversations with kids.

    “The research has shown that asking about suicide will not put the thought in a child’s head,” he said.  

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