'13 Reasons Why': New Study Reveals If Watching the Show Increases or Decreases Suicide Risks in Students

13 Reasons Why remains one of the most controversial shows Netflix has ever produced, and with the impending release of the show's third season, researchers looked at the impact the show has on teen suicide.

Despite concerns over whether the show glamorizes teen suicide, the study found viewers who watched through the show's second season finale had a less chance of purposefully injuring themselves or consider suicide than those who did not.

The study was published in the journal Social Science and Medicine, and surveyed 729 adults ages 18 to 29. The study was conducted before and after the show's second season was released in May 2018.

"They were actually better off than if they hadn't watched it," Dan Romer, the study's co-author and the research director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told Philly.com.

The study found that those who stopped watching partway through were actually at a greater risk for suicide. Romer theorized this was because viewers would miss the end of Season 2, in which Clay (Dylan Minnette) struggled to come to terms of Hannah's (Katherine Langford) suicide in Season 1.

"That's a hopeful message," Romer said of the second season. "Even though you're plagued by thoughts of suicide and guilt, you can move past it."

The first season's focus on Hannah's suicide led to widespread concerns of the show's impact on young viewers. Eventually, Netflix agreed to create a warning video that plays before episodes featuring the cast. The streaming giant also launched a website called 13ReasonsWhy.info, which provides links to resources like the Crisis Text Line and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

Season 2 proved just as controversial though, as the plot featured Clay considering carrying out a school shooting. One episode also included a graphic scene of sexual assault against Devin Druid's character Tyler. Despite all these concerns, Netflix defiantly renewed the show for a third season in June 2018.

"We're committed on this show to telling truthful stories about things that young people go through in as unflinching a way as we can," Season 2 showrunner Brian Yorkey said last year. "We fully understand that that means some of the scenes in the show will be difficult to watch. I think Netflix has helped provide viewers with lots of resources for understanding that this may not be the show for everybody, and also resources for people who do watch it and are troubled and need help."

Yorkey continued, "When we talk about something being 'disgusting' or hard to watch, often that means we are attaching shame to the experience. This is why these kinds of assaults are underreported. This is why victims have a hard time seeking help. We believe that talking about is so much better than silence."

Romer's suggestion to Netflix is to make the show less graphic, making it more accessible to viewers who could experience the positive effects of the show. He also pointed out that the warning video released last year actually increased interest in the show, and that viewers who took part in his study said they were more likely to help others considering suicide.

"They came away with a greater understanding of how harmful it can be for people to mistreat each other," Romer told Philly.com.

Romer also pointed out that the study only followed viewers for a month after Season 2 premiered, so it does not provide a long-term view of the show's impact.

"These shows are complicated, and the effects they have on people are different for different people," he told Philly.com. "That's why it's very hard to predict or give advice about who should or shouldn't watch something like this."

13 Reasons Why Season 3 will be released on Netflix later this year.


If you or someone you know are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741-741.

Photo credit: Netflix