A new study examines the effect ’13 Reasons Why’ might have had on internet searches for suicide-related queries.
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Suicide-related searches on Google jumped significantly after the release of the show 13 Reasons Why, according to a report published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine.
The show, which premiered in March on Netflix, follows the fictional story of Hannah Baker, a teenager who commits suicide and leaves behind 13 tapes detailing why she decided to end her life. Based on the popular Jay Asher novel of the same name, the series gained widespread interest in its depiction of suicide and the issues surrounding it. Some praised the show for spreading awareness and others accused Netflix of glamorizing suicide in a way that may promote self-harm.
“I felt that the debate wasn’t getting anywhere,” said John W. Ayers, the lead author of the study. “We needed data.”
He and four other researchers set out to determine whether Google searches related to suicide and suicidal ideation increased in the 19 days after the show’s release on Netflix.
They looked at searches that included the word “suicide,” removing results that included the word “squad” to control for searches of “Suicide Squad,” the 2016 film. They restricted their search to the time between the show’s premiere on March 31 and April 18, the day before the suicide of football player Aaron Hernandez.
The results were striking: During the weeks after the show’s release, suicide-related queries jumped by 19%, reflecting 900,000 to 1.5 million more searches than expected. Searches for the phrases “how to commit suicide,” “commit suicide” and “how to kill yourself” were all higher than expected. Searches for the terms “suicide hotline number, “suicide hotline” and “suicide prevention” were also up.
“13 Reason Why elevated suicide awareness, but it is concerning that searches indicating suicidal ideation also rose,” the researchers wrote.
The JAMA report suggested that 13 Reasons Why did not do enough to reduce the connection between the show and suicidal ideation, citing the World Health Organization’s (WHO) media guidelines for preventing suicide. Showmakers could have removed any scenes depicting suicide or addressed the issue by including suicide hotline numbers in…