A Study Found That '13 Reasons Why' Increased Suicide Risk In Teens

A Study Found That '13 Reasons Why' Increased Suicide Risk In Teens

Should we pretend to be surprised?

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A newly released study shows a connection between the popular Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" and suicide risks in teenagers treated in psychiatric emergency departments at the hospital.

The show, commonly referred to as "13RW," gained vast popularity and attention among young adults since its premiere in 2017. The story begins with a 17-year-old high school student who, before committing suicide, recorded 13 audio tapes that discuss 13 different contributing factors to why she took her own life. The story then follows the ensuing drama among her peers in high school as they find the different tapes and discover more about her life.

The show was also met with extreme backlash and controversy from mental health experts, parents, and educators alike for its depiction of mental illness and suicide, which has been criticized as glorification or romanticization.

That's exactly why researchers at Michigan Medicine wanted to study "13 Reasons Why" and any potential contributions to suicide risks in teens already experiencing suicidal thoughts or mental illnesses such as depression.

Researchers surveyed 87 teens, out of which 43 reported they had watched at least one episode of the show. Of the 43 who watched, about half said it heightened their risk of suicide. The study also found that most teens watched the shows alone and weren't likely to discuss their reactions with a parent.

The majority of teens who reported that the show increased their suicide risk also said that they strongly identified with the main character, Hannah Baker, who committed suicide after recording audio tapes about what influenced her decision.

And while one single study doesn't confirm that the show increases suicide risks in all teens, it still presents extremely troubling information. We already know that movies, TV shows, and other media have an extreme influence on how we perceive topics such as mental illness and suicide. And we already know that young adults and teenagers are especially impressionable just by nature, too. These facts, along with the study's results, confirm that shows such as "13 Reasons Why" CAN have a serious impact on vulnerable youth and how they understand themselves, others, and difficult topics like mental health and suicide. The impact is even more daunting considering how many teenagers avoid talking with parents, teachers, or other adults in their life about such topics.

Mental illness, suicide, bullying, and sexual assault are already highly stigmatized topics in our society that are often just shoved under the rug due to ignorance, stereotypes, fear, or the general lack of knowledge and how to manage them. If we never talk about these things, how can we be surprised when they continue to happen? When we act like it doesn't exist, the media becomes the only figure to characterize and shape subjects like mental illness and suicide - and the media is notorious for stereotyping, romanticizing, glamorizing, or misrepresenting many real-life issues, including mental health. Teenagers are specifically in need of support and direction from parents, counselors, or other adults but are arguably the least likely to ever seek it out.

That's why it's so, so important that conversations about mental health, suicide, bullying, and sexual assault are normalized in our society. Everyone - especially young people - needs to accurately understand their mental health and how to deal with issues like mental illnesses, suicidal thoughts, or bullying. When we teach people that it's okay and normal to struggle with mental health and thoughts of suicide, they become more comfortable reaching out to others and seeking treatment. Leading people to the resources and help they need lets them know that there IS help out there, and that suicide is NOT the answer or solution to "get back" at people who bullied or assaulted them, like the main character in "13RW" suggests. Mental health is something we ALL deal with, so we all deserve to have an understanding and a clear path to seeking help.

Make sure the people around you - whether those are your friends, family, children, peers at school, or co-workers - know that it is OKAY to struggle with mental health or suicidal thoughts. No one should be ashamed of having a mental illness or of having been bullied or sexually assaulted in the past. Make sure others know that struggling with suicide risks or mental health problems doesn't mark the end of their lives and won't last forever, too; and there are plenty of resources and treatment options to help. Starting an open, honest conversation in your community about such topics will normalize discussion and acceptance and end the harmful stigma that the media paints around mental health.

Visit credible websites such as the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, MentalHealth.gov, and Mental Health America for facts, educational tools, resources, and guides for discussing mental health and available resources in your community.

Visit The "#YouDefineYou" Project for additional resources for mental health, suicide prevention, bullying, sexual assault, addiction, and other situations.

To learn more about the study, click here.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.

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I Ghosted My Old Self For 5 Months In An Effort To Reevaluate My Life

My life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

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BREAKING (not fake) NEWS: It's true, you have to hit your lowest before hitting your highest.

I want to share my lowest with you, and I'm almost ashamed to say it had nothing to do with the loss of both of my parents. I like to think I handled that like a warrior.

Turns out I didn't, and the hurt I've been burying from that hit me all at once, the same moment my life fell apart faster than a drunk dude approaching a Jenga stack.

My life flipped upside down overnight back in August. I had my heart broken shattered, lost two very important friendships that I thought were with me until the end, lost my 9-5 job, my health took a hit stronger than a boulder, and I was absolutely lost. For the first time, ever, I let go of the reigns on my own life. I had no idea how to handle myself, how to make anyone around me happy, how to get out of bed or how to even begin the process of trying to process what the f*ck just happened. I was terrified.

Coming from the girl who never encountered a dilemma she couldn't fix instantaneously, on her own, with no emotional burden. I was checked out from making my life better. So I didn't try. I didn't even think about thinking about trying.

The only relatively understandable way I could think to deal with anything was to not deal with anything. And that's exactly what I did. And it was f*cking amazing.

I went into hiding for a week, then went on a week getaway with my family, regained that feeling of being loved unconditionally, and realized that's all I need. They are all I need. Friends? Nah. Family. Only. Always.

On that vacation, I got a call from the school district that they wanted me in for an interview the day I come home. It was for a position that entailed every single class, combined, that I took in my college career. It was a career that I had just gotten my degree for three months before.

I came home and saw my doctor and got a health plan in order. I was immediately thrown into the month-long hiring process for work. I made it a point to make sunset every single night, alone, to make sure I was mentally caught up and in-check at the same exact speed that my life was turning. I was not about to lose my control again. Not ever.

Since August, I have spent more time with family than ever. I've read over 10 new books, I've discovered so much new music, I went on some of my best, the worst and funniest first dates, I made true, loyal friends that cause me zero stress while completely drowning me in overwhelming amounts of love and support, I got back into yoga, and I started that job and damn near fell more in love with it than I ever was for the guy I lost over the summer.

But most importantly, I changed my mindset. I promised myself to not say a single sentence that has a negative tone to it. I promised myself to think three times before engaging in any type of personal conversation. I promised myself to wake up in a good mood every damn day because I'm alive and that is the only factor I should need to be happy.

Take it from a girl who knew her words were weapons and used them frequently before deciding to turn every aspect of her life into positivity — even in the midst of losing one of my closest family members. I have been told multiple times, by people so dear to me that I'm "glowing." You know what I said back? F*ck yes I am, and I deserve to.

I am so happy with myself and it has nothing to do with the things around me. It's so much deeper than that, and I'm beaming with pride. Of myself. For myself.

I want to leave you with these thoughts that those people who have hurt me, left me, and loved me through these last couple of months have taught me

Growth is sometimes a lonely process.
Some things go too deep to ever be forgotten.
You need to give yourself the permission to be happy right now.
You outgrow people you thought you couldn't live without, and you're not the one to blame for that. You're growing.
Sometimes it takes your break down to reach your breakthrough.

Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

My god, it's so f*cking good.

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10 Ways In Which I Have Dealt With Losing A Friend To Suicide

December 8, 2017 was a day my world became a little darker.

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Just your normal Friday evening, it was snowing, and my classes were done for the semester. I was on the third floor of our campus library. When all of a sudden I got a dreaded email. He was gone. The guy who although I only knew him for a couple weeks came to the back of the bus to come talk to me while I rode to my piano class. I would be lying if I told you that I have been okay physically, emotionally, and/or mentally since that day. But here are some things I have learned to ensure I am healthy during this tough season.

1. Understanding the situation

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This is the first time that I have really lost someone close to me in a pretty traumatic way. The feeling of shock and grief can be pretty overwhelming. Sitting with those feelings can be really uncomfortable but are 100% necessary.

2. Realize that no two people experience loss in the same way 

I think the hardest thing for me has been looking at others who were also close to him, much closer than I was, and thinking that they have their life together and are not having the type of bad days I am experiencing. I have to constantly remind myself that people go through different stages of grief at different speeds, and there is no "right way" of showing how much you are hurting.

3. Acknowledge that this situation is unique

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Losing a friend or loved one is never easy. However, when you lose someone to suicide as I did, it can feel different from other types of loss. Several circumstances such as the stigma around this issue can make death by suicide different, making the healing process more challenging.

4. Fight the stigma

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Stigma around mental health and suicide have been a problem in our society recently, and as a pre-health profession major, I have worked to the best of my ability to break that stigma down to the ground.

5. Understand that there can be risks for survivors (AKA me)

People who have recently experienced a loss by suicide are at increased risk of having suicidal thoughts themselves. After experiencing the loss of a loved one, it's not uncommon to wish you were dead or to feel like the pain is unbearable. Remember that having suicidal thoughts does not mean that you will act on them. These feelings and thoughts will likely decrease over time, but if you find them too intense, or if you're considering putting your thoughts into action, seek support from a mental health professional.

6. Find support 

It's very important to find people in your life who are good listeners so that you can turn to someone when you need extra support. You may find it helpful to talk to a friend, family member, mental health professional, or spiritual advisor.

7. Stay present 

Take each moment as it comes. That way, you can better accept whatever you're feeling and be able to respond in the way that is most helpful to you. I personally benefit from calling my best friend. Some people find journaling helpful to let go of your thoughts for now.

8. Find time and space for yourself to grieve BUT don't allow yourself to be in that space for very long 

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Acknowledging your experiences is necessary. Whether it's talking about it with a friend, journaling, or just sitting with your thoughts in private. Just make sure you leave enough time to do something pleasantly distracting from time to time. Social events or pleasant activities can provide relaxation and distraction. Laughter heals the soul.

9. It's OK to cry

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Just because I just said to schedule fun activities doesn't mean that you should bottle up feelings for that time. It's okay to have those emotional breakdowns once in a while.

10. Have an accountability partner 

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With the one year anniversary coming up with my friend, I have already brought in two of my really good friends into my life that have promised to check up on me all week to make sure I am balancing feelings with living my life. Find that someone or two that will walk with you during this difficult season.

To anyone reading this article and has gone through a similar struggle with losing a friend to suicide, know that I know how it feels, and I am here for you. Life may seem unbearable right now but it will get better. Probably not today or tomorrow, and in my case, not a year later. But believe it or not, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

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