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Doctor visits about suicidal thoughts rose with '13 Reasons Why.' Handle Season 2 with care.  3 Days ago

Source:   USA Today  

And rightly so. One study demonstrated a 19% increase in Google searches related to suicide after the show’s release, including "how to commit suicide," "commit suicide" and "how to kill yourself." The study suggests that the show might have raised awareness of suicide but could also have led some people to actively contemplate suicide.

With the arrival of Season 2, is there renewed cause for concern?

We believe so, based on our study of millions of doctors’ visits by 14- to 20-year-olds during the weeks before and after the release of Season 1 on March 31, 2017. 

These findings are worrisome. To be sure, the observed increase in doctors’ visits for suicidal ideation could reflect an increase in the number of teens seeking help as a result of viewing the show.

Even so, when the increase is taken together with the documented jump in online searches for ways to commit suicide, the alternative explanation of contagion in suicidal thinking is impossible to ignore. Unfortunately, national mortality statistics lag by several years, so we don’t know whether actual suicides increased after the show’s 2017 release.

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The World Health Organization has recognized the importance of careful depictions of suicide by the media and has published suicide prevention guidelines that specifically oppose realistic portrayals of suicide.

Among several initiatives, cast members in Season 2 will come out of character at the start of the season to discuss issues of depression, suicidal thinking and how to get help.

That’s good, but it’s not enough. Health care providers, particularly those caring for vulnerable teens, should be aware of the Season 2 release and the impact it might have on suicidal thinking and behavior. Some have recommended that at-risk youth not view the show — which could well be good advice. 

Everyone should agree that better data are also critical. We do not yet know whether Season 1 actually increased suicides or suicide attempts. But the current evidence, including our own, offers reason for concern. It justifies a general warning for both disseminators and viewers of shows of this kind: Handle with extreme care.


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