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13 Reasons Why: Too Good or Too Much?

Many Netflix lovers tuned into the fourth season release of the popular series, 13 Reasons Why starring Dylan Minnette and Katherine Langford. In the show, Hannah Baker is the main character and falls victim to suicide. The show follows her life and what led up to her suicide and her family and friend’s lives afterward. The show has been nominated and even received awards for its superior content. Although, 13 Reasons Why has received controversial backlash for its seemingly impactful effect on suicide across America. For this reason, a study was conducted by researchers at multiple universities, hospitals, and the National Institute of Mental Health by whom this study was funded by. The purpose of the study was possibly finding a connection between the suicide rates in the US at the time that this TV series was released. Although media has the power to educate people about the intensity and impact suicide has, it also has the potential to harm those who watch. This series was in the top 3 of the most binge-watched series on Netflix when it was released. Due to its extreme detail and graphic scenes included to describe Hannah Baker’s suicide, this study was conducted to see if suicide rates in people aged 10-64 rose due to the TV series. 

To obtain the data needed to draw a connection, researchers collected numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions system of suicides intentionally committed from months before and after the show was released. A couple of different methods were used to get the most accurate information for this study. The Holt-Winters method was used to take into account level, trend, and seasonality. The equation that was formulated was able to compile suicide rates before the official release of the show or the pre-release period, the post-release period, and then the change between the two. 

The researchers found that in the span of time they gathered suicide rates from, there were 180,655 suicides by people aged 10-64 years old in the US. After factoring out seasonal effects and underlying trends, researchers found that there was a 28.9% increase in suicide rates after the release of 13 Reasons Why. As a matter of fact, April of 2017 (show released on March 31st, 2017) had the highest monthly suicide rate of any month in a 5 year period. The numbers are clear in showing that this show portraying a real girl’s story of suicide can be directly linked to increased suicide rates across the US. 

Overall, some limitations that researchers could have faced are the way that people were interpreting the content shown on the TV series leading them to commit suicide. As it could have been the portrayal of suicide in important scenes or if it was due to lack of adherence to media guidelines such as showing the national suicide prevention resources after these scenes. 


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