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Netflix’s ’13 Reasons Why’ Linked to Suicidal Thoughts

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September 6, 2017, News

A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine and led by San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health associate research professor John W. Ayers delved into Americans’ Internet search history in the days after the series 13 Reasons Why aired. He found that queries about suicide and how to commit suicide spiked in the show’s wake.

For the study, Ayers and colleagues turned to data from Google Trends, a public archive of aggregated Internet searches. The team focused on searches originating from the United States between March 31, 2017, the series’ release date, and April 18.

They collected all search phrases containing the word “suicide,” except for those accompanied by the word “squad,” as those were most likely for the unrelated movie “Suicide Squad,” released around the same time.

The team then compared the search frequency of phrases containing the word “suicide” over that time frame with a hypothetical scenario in which the “13 Reasons Why” had never been released, based on forecasts using historical search trends.

All suicide-related queries were 19 percent higher than expected following the show. Some of that bump came from a higher-than-expected number of searches for phrases like “suicide hotline” (up 12 percent) or “suicide prevention” (up 23 percent). But an alarming percentage of the spike also came from phrases like “how to commit suicide” (up 26 percent), “commit suicide” (up 18 percent) and “how to kill yourself” (up 9 percent).

It’s not clear whether any of those searches led directly to suicides, Ayers said, but previous research has found that increases in Internet searches for suicide methods are correlated with actual suicides.

Read the full article on the San Diego State University website.

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