As the show’s popularity surged, interest in suicide also grew. Nick Lehr/The Conversation via www.shutterstock.com, CC BY-NC-SA
Does it matter that people seem to have become more interested in suicide – expressing more suicidal thoughts, while becoming more likely to research ways to commit or prevent suicide – in the wake of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why”?
According to new research my colleagues and I conducted, suicide-related Google searches increased in the weeks following the spring release of the popular Netflix series “13 Reasons Why.”
The show – which became the streaming service’s most discussed series on social media – chronicles a high school girl’s suicide over the course of 13 episodes. In the season finale, the suicide is depicted in a three-minute scene.
Singer Selena Gomez, the executive producer of the show, said she hoped the series would raise suicide awareness. Yet some – including educators and school psychologists – fear the series glamorizes the victim and her suicide in a way that could promote copycat behavior.
In recent months, stories about the possible effects of the series have circulated in the media. In May, The Washington Post reported that school administrators in Florida were witnessing more risky behaviors among their students, from self-mutilation to suicide threats. In June, People magazine told the story of a young man in Peru who took his own life, leaving behind recordings in a way that mimicked the main character in the series.
Our study adds to this discussion by considering a novel source: search data. Because the internet is a place where people can anonymously search for information free of judgment, researchers can see what’s on the mind of the public by monitoring what they’re searching.