Study: Increase in Youth Suicides After Release of “13 Reasons Why”

Media depictions of suicide should follow recommended guidelines to avoid harm


 Nationwide Children’s Hospital was looking for a way to raise awareness of the issue of teen suicide rates. Suicide affects everyone regardless of ethnicity, race, income level and gender, and NCH’s committment to improving mental health made this an important focus for their work. At the same time, Netflix was preparing to release the third season of its popular show, 13 Reasons Why. The show involved an infamous suicide scene, and NCH researchers felt that the scene was glamorizing the issue of suicide. It was our job to position this story as a teaching moment and highlight how improvements could be made.


The most important aspect of this project was creating content that would back up the claim that the show led to negative health outcomes. An NCH study revealed approximately 195 more youth suicide deaths than expected occurred within the nine months immediately following the series release in 2017. The month of April 2017 had the highest suicide rate during the five-year study period among 10- to 17-year-olds, but there was no significant association between the series’ release and suicide in individuals 18 and older. By combining study information with input from hospital representatives, the project spotlighted the importance of mental health and suicide prevention.


Combining such an important topic with the visibility of a popular show meant that this project would be aimed at a national audience. With MediaSource’s long-standing reputation among journalists and Nationwide’s important research, the story was relevant to a wide variety of publications. Our team took advantage of the interest to line up interviews with major national publications, radio programs and television news.



By the end of its run, the story had earned an audience of more than 1.9 billion from 1,280 different media outlets.Coverage included CNN, National Public Radio, CBS News, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and the Associated Press. But the story didn’t just garner press, it made a lasting impact as well. After release of the story and its subsequent media coverage, Netflix removed the controversial suicide scene from the show ahead of its season three release.