New Study Shows Kids’ Suicides Spiked After Release of Netflix Teen Series ‘13 Reasons Why’
American Family Association Has Alerted Parents About Dangerous Show for Months; 144,000 Have Signed AFA Petition to Netflix
TUPELO, Miss.—A new study has confirmed the fears the American Family Association (AFA, www.afa.net) has had all along. Suicides among U.S. children aged 10 to 17 jumped to a 19-year high in the month following the release of Netflix’s teen-targeted series “13 Reasons Why.”
For many months, AFA has warned parents about the dangers of “13 Reasons Why,” especially after hearing the tragic story of Anna Bright, the 14-year-old daughter of Joseph and Patrice Bright who committed suicide after binge-watching Season 1 of the program.
“Anna is not the only teen to have taken her life within days of viewing the show,” said AFA President Tim Wildmon. “The families of two 15-year-old California teens, Bella and Priscilla, also blame their loved ones’ deaths on the series. Both teens, who did not know one another, were struggling with depression, watched the show, apparently were triggered by it and committed suicide. Their families, along with many others, are also calling for Netflix to abandon the series. Tragically, many more suicides may have resulted because of ‘13 Reasons Why,’ but families and loved ones will be left to wonder why their children are gone from their lives forever.”
The study by Dr. Jeff Bridge, funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, found “there were 195 more youth suicides than would have been expected in the nine months following the show’s March 2017 release, given historical and seasonal suicide trends, the study estimated.” This is according to One News Now, the news service of AFA; CBS also reported on the study.
During April 2017 alone, 190 U.S. tweens and teens took their own lives, One News Now further reported. This age group’s April 2017 suicide rate was .57 per 100,000 people, nearly 30 percent higher than in the preceding five years included in the study. An additional analysis found that the April rate was higher than in the previous 19 years. Season 1 of “13 Reasons Why” was released March 31, 2017.
“The creators of the series intentionally portrayed the suicide of the main character,” said Bridge in a statement. “It was a very graphic depiction of the suicide death.” He is a suicide researcher at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
“13 Reasons Why” has become a lightning rod for critics who say it glorifies suicide and might even make it an attractive option for teenagers who are enduring difficult times in their lives. In fact, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center has an entire section of its website dedicated to “13 Reasons Why” because of a noted increase in suicides and attempted suicides among teens.
“The study, although it does have some caveats, shows this astonishing increase in the number of suicides,” noted AFA Executive Vice President Ed Vitagliano. “And even when the series came out—and before this study was done—I read of countless psychologists warning of the possibility of a contagion effect. I think we should take it seriously; I think Netflix should take it seriously. And we do not think Netflix has taken it seriously because this series has been a financial boon for the company. We think they’re putting profits ahead of the potential damage it could be doing to troubled youth.”
Season 1 of “13 Reasons Why” focused on the graphic suicide of Hannah Baker, who slits her wrists in a bathtub full of water. Her decision to end her life is explained through a collection of cassette tapes that she leaves behind blaming the people responsible for her death. Season 2 picks up months after Hannah’s suicide, and sadly, the filth and gratuitous content is only exacerbated with story lines that include sodomy, homosexuality, drug use, extreme profanity and a plot for mass school violence.
An online petition launched by AFA urging Netflix to drop the series has drawn more than 144,000 signatures.
Read Wildmon’s letter to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings here and sign the petition to Netflix here. Visit an AFA Action Alert on “13 Reasons Why,” and read the article about Anna Bright’s family in AFA Journal.