According to a study published in Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Netflix show Thirteen Reasons Why was associated with a 28.9% increase in USA youth suicide rates. The study found that following the show’s release, the increase was linked with youths aged between 10-17 in the month of April 2017, after accounting for ongoing trends in suicide rates (see HERE).

The importance of using best practices when portraying suicide on popular entertainment and in the media

The findings highlight the necessity of using best practices when portraying suicide in popular entertainment and in the media.

The number of deaths by suicide recorded in April 2017 was greater than the number seen in any single month during the five-year period examined by the researchers. When researchers analysed the data by sex, they found the increase in the youth suicide rates was primarily driven by significant increases in suicide in young males. While suicide rates for females increased after the show’s release, the increase was not statistically significant.


“All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”


“The results of this study should raise awareness that young people are particularly vulnerable to the media,” emphasises study author Lisa Horowitz, a clinical scientist in the NIMH Intramural Research Program.

“All disciplines, including the media, need to take good care to be constructive and thoughtful about topics that intersect with public health crises.”

Thirteen Reasons Why devasting effect

‘13 Reasons Why’ is a web-based tv show hosted on Netflix that tells the story of a young girl who kills herself and leaves behind a series of 13 tapes detailing the reasons why she chose to end her life. Although this show has received critical acclaim, it has also generated questions regarding how the show’s portrayal of suicide affects young people who watch it. The series premiered on Netflix on March 31, 2017.

The findings of this study add to a growing body of information suggesting that youth may be particularly sensitive to the way suicide is portrayed in popular entertainment and in the media. Although it is important to raise awareness and bring a realistic perspective regarding the topic of suicide to the public, it is vital to ensure guidelines are put in place, so viewers are aware of the assistance that is available for those who are experienced or know of someone experience mental health issues or bullying.

This increasing recognition of entertainment and media influence has led a variety of groups, such as National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, the World Health Organization, and reporting on suicide.org, to create best practices for talking about and portraying suicide on the screen (HEALTH EUROPE, 30th April 2019).

Bioethical approach

Could romanticizing suicide in TV shows be a way of glorifying and condoning it? Can a TV show intersect with public health crises without any responsibility? Communication and teaching institutions must urgently be made aware of the growing tendency to commit suicide in developed countries.