health

Our greatest fears about the effect of 13 Reasons Why are being realised.

Warning: This post discusses suicide and may be triggering for some readers.

It was trending. There were memes, headlines, it was queued up on the Netflix browser of teenagers around the world.

School kids talked about it at slumber parties and at recess, school uniforms brushing against locker doors, whispering – have you seen it?

The world was both terrified and captivated by the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. 

It was an unprecedented and fictional portrayal of suicide – based on a best-selling young adult novel of the same name – that told the story of Hannah Baker, who took her life for one reason: revenge.

Australian mental health organisations such as Headspace released an official warning against it. “We are encouraging parents not to let young people see this show,” Kristen Douglas, the National Manager of Headspace School Support, told Mamamia back in April.

Exposure to the methodology of suicide can plant itself deep into the darkest corners of the viewer’s mind. A piece of information that could prove fatal at a later, unrelated date.

13 Reasons Why broke all the rules and now, we are starting to understand the consequences.

Now, a new report published in JAMA International Medicine has shown how the 13-part series – particularly the finale, which graphically shows the suicide over a three-minute scene – led to an increase in Google searches for specific suicide methods.

Is the series Helpful or Dangerous? Post continues below.

The researchers analysed search information for the term ‘suicide’ following the series premiere on March 31, 2017. Importantly, the researchers also accounted for other terms such as “squad” – related to the Suicide Squad movie released at a similar time.

“Using Google Trends, we obtained search trends including the term ‘suicide’. We monitored the top 25 terms and the next five most related terms to those,” the report states. “Our approach was to compare internet search volumes after the premiere of 13 Reasons Why with expected search volumes if the series had never been released (March 31, 2017, through April 18, 2017).”

The results? Between March 31 and April 18 (just 19 days) all suicide queries were higher than expected by 19 per cent. This accounts for between 900,000 and 1.5 million more searches than usual relating to suicide.

Read that again: Between 900,000 and 1.5 million more searches than usual relating to suicide.

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13 Reasons Why proved wildly popular with viewers. (Image: Netflix)

What were people searching?

"The most rising queries focused on suicidal ideation," the report states. "'How to commit suicide', 'Commit suicide' and 'How to kill yourself' were all significantly higher than expected."

Though it is unclear whether each search led to an attempt, the numbers are still devastating, particularly because the popularity of 13 Reasons Why coincides with the suicide rate in Australia being the highest it's been in 10 years.

We know that suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44.

We know the target audience for 13 Reasons Why is young adults.

Now, we also know search terms such as 'How to kill your self' and 'Ways to commit suicide' increase while the show is trending.

Meanwhile... 13 Reasons Why Season 2 is confirmed and on the way.

Can't we make it stop?

If you, or a young person you know, is struggling with symptoms of mental illness please contact your local headspace centre or chat to them online here. If you are over the age of 25 and suffering from symptoms of mental illness please contact your local GP for a Mental Health Assessment Plan or call Lifeline Australia on 13 11 14.

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