13 Reasons Why, a Netflix show exploring why its protagonist died by suicide, has sparked debate among the research community as to whether it contributed to an uptick in suicide rates. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings responded to this indictment after the first season, simply stating that “nobody has to watch it.”
But after another study connecting an uptick in teen suicide rates to the show made headlines this week, the streaming service has taken a slightly less ruthless attitude.
“We’ve just seen this study and are looking into the research, which conflicts with last week’s study from the University of Pennsylvania,” a Netflix spokesperson told Gizmodo in an email on Tuesday. “This is a critically important topic and we have worked hard to ensure that we handle this sensitive issue responsibly.”
The spokesperson linked to an article detailing a study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine this month. This study reportedly found that of the adults aged 18 to 29 surveyed, those who finished the show’s second season, which released in May of last year, had beneficial effects. But that adults surveyed who didn’t finish the season had a higher risk of suicide.
It’s not exactly the most reassuring findings given the opposition, but it does slightly undermine the new study reinvigorating the debate over whether the show is linked to an increase in suicides.
The latest research was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. It found that in the nine months following the show’s release there were 195 more suicides among U.S. youth ages 10 to 17 than were expected based on historical data.
Specifically, in April 2017, the month after the release, 190 U.S. youth died by suicide, which is about 30 per cent higher than suicide rates five years prior, USA Today reported. But these findings are hardly conclusive, given other possible factors or events occurring around the same time of the show’s release that might be linked to these suicides.
It remains unclear how exactly Netflix will respond to the concerns of researchers and critics, but if history is any indication, showrunners are unlikely to cancel the show altogether in the wake of this distress.
If depression is affecting you or someone you know, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.