Online searches about suicide and suicidal methods soared in the weeks following the release of controversial Netflix drama “13 Reasons Why,” about a teenage girl who killed herself, US researchers said Monday.
While the report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine did not examine whether the number of actual suicides rose following the popular drama’s release, researchers said the spike in internet searches is cause for concern.
Overall, suicide-related queries were 19 percent higher than expected following the show, said the research letter in JAMA.
“There were between 900,000 and 1,500,000 more suicide-related searches than expected during the 19 days following the series’ release,” said study co-author Mark Dredze, a professor of computer science at Johns Hopkins University.
Phrases like “how to commit suicide” rose 26 percent, “commit suicide” was up 18 percent and “how to kill yourself” increased nine percent.
On the flip side, searches for phrases like “suicide hotline” were up 12 percent, and “suicide prevention” rose 23 percent.
“While it’s heartening that the series’ release concurred with increased awareness of suicide and suicide prevention, like those searching for “suicide prevention,” our results back up the worst fears of the show’s critics,” said lead author John Ayers, research professor at San Diego State University Graduate School of Public Health.
“The show may have inspired many to act on their suicidal thoughts by seeking out information on how to commit suicide.”
Supporters have praised the drama -- in which a friend listens to a series of audio-cassette journals left behind by the deceased girl -- for its frank portrayal of adolescent struggles.
Critics say the show did not provide enough referrals to suicide prevention resources for people who may be at risk, and depicted a suicide in graphic detail during the final episode.