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?


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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Why You Actually Don't Want To Be Prescribed Adderall

ADD isn't all that it's cracked up to be.

As I'm writing this, I can feel my concentration slipping. Noises have become enticing, I feel distanced from my phone, and every time someone walks by me in the library, I turn around seeing if it's someone I know. My extended-release Adderall is starting to wear off and my brain is starting to relax back to its natural state. My ADD is climbing out from underneath the blanket of focus I had for 10 hours today.

ADD is not all that it's cracked up to be. Sure, we get prescribed the precious Adderall so many people want, but at what cost? Let me put this in context for you. You know when you're at the library and there's a one really, really loud girl talking on the phone? You know the one. The girl that, for some reason, thinks it's OK to have a full-fledged conversation with her mom about her boyfriend in the middle of the quiet section. The girl that's talking so loud that it's all you can think about, occupying all of your focus. Well, that's what every single person in the room is like when you have ADD.

Distractions that are easy to ignore to someone without ADD are intensified and, instead of focusing on the task at hand, I'm listening to the girl three seats down from me eat her barbecue kettle chips. When you have ADD, it's not just schoolwork you can't focus on. You can't focus on anything. I tried to watch a foreign film one time without my medicine, and I forgot to pay attention to the subtitles. I realized about halfway through the movie that I had no idea what was going on.

What almost everyone that asks me for my Adderall doesn't understand is that I take Adderall to focus how you would normally. When you take my Adderall you feel like you can solve the world's problems. You can bang out an entire project in one night. You can cram for an entire exam fueled by this surge of motivation that seems super-hero-like.

You take my Adderall and ask me, “Is this how you feel all the time?" And, unfortunately, my answer is no. I'll never feel like a limitless mastermind. When I take Adderall, I become a normal human being. I can finish a normal amount of work, in a normal amount of time.

My brain works in two modes: on Adderall, and off Adderall. On Adderall, I'm attentive, motivated and energetic. Off Adderall, I can barely get up the motivation and focus to clean my room or send an email. And it's frustrating. I'm frustrated with my lack of drive. I'm frustrated that this is how my brain operates. Scattered, spastic and very, very unorganized. There's nothing desirable about not being able to finish a sentence because you lost thought mid-way through.

The worst thing that you can say to anyone with ADD is, “I think I should start taking Adderall." Having ADD isn't a free pass to get super-pills, having ADD means you have a disability. I take Adderall because I have a disability, and it wasn't a choice I had a say in. I was tested for ADD my freshman year of college.

My parents were skeptical because they didn't know exactly what ADD was. To them, the kids with ADD were the bad kids in school that caused a scene and were constantly sent out of class. Not an above average student in her first year at a university. I went to a counselor and, after I was diagnosed with ADD, told me with a straight mouth, “Marissa this is something you're going to have to take for the rest of your life."

When the late-night assignments and cramming for the tests are over, and we're all out in the real world, I'm still going to be taking Adderall. When I'm raising a family and have to take the right kid to the right place for soccer practice, I'm still going be taking Adderall. And when I'm trying to remember the numbers they just said for bingo at my nursing home, I'm still going to be taking Adderall.

So you tell me you're jealous that I get prescribed Adderall? Don't be. I'm jealous that you can drink a cup a coffee and motivate yourself once you lose focus. I'm jealous that the success of your day doesn't depend on whether or not you took a pill that morning. The idea of waking up and performing a full day without my medicine is foreign to me.

My brain works in two modes, and I don't know which one is the right one. I don't know which mode is the one the big man upstairs wants me to operate in. So before you say you want to be prescribed to Adderall, ask yourself if you need and want to operate in two different modes.

Ask yourself if you want to rely on medicine to make your entire life work. If I had a choice, I would choose coffee like the rest of the world.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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Staying Quiet Is Never The Answer

Never hold in anything—always talk to someone.


"Talk to someone" may be a phrase used all of the time, but I'm serious when I say, talk to someone.

I cannot stress enough the importance of talking to someone when you are going through anything difficult that is bringing you down. Believe me when I say that this is something I had to learn myself. I'm the queen of not talking about anything to anyone and wearing my, "Everything is okay" mask, but that is one of the most unhealthy things you can do. Holding everything in is so damaging to you emotionally and mentally. When you bottle everything, it will eventually all come out and it will be on someone you are close to who had no idea about anything you tell them.

My reason for not talking was always that my problems would add a burden to someone else and I never wanted to do that; the truth is, those that care about you think more about ways they can help than your problems being a burden for them. I've always been the person to hold everything in until it got to be too much and then I would explode on one of the people closest to me; not only was that damaging to me, but it was damaging to my relationship with that person as well.

Talking to someone is one of the most serious things you can do. People have been placed in your life as people you can vent to and tell everything to. I'm not saying vent to everyone in your life, but find at least one person you can trust and talk to them. The more you talk to people and let them in, the easier it gets to become something you do normally and the easier life gets. Even if you don't want to talk to someone close to you, there are hotlines you can call and talk to people who literally do that as their job. Your problems are not a burden and do not need to be held inside.

Talk to someone; the more you do it, the easier it gets.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


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