The show tries to show in a realistic manner what would lead a young person to feel so helpless they resort to taking their own life. The creators of the show hoped it would lead to discussion and ultimately help prevent future cases from occurring. Many felt otherwise, however.
These arguments could have been seen as just a difference of opinion until there was hard evidence on either side. Recently, that evidence came in the form of a new research paper. The results were disturbing.
After the premiere of the series, the search phrase "how to commit suicide" rose 26 percent above what would normally have been expected for that time. "Suicide prevention" went up 23 percent. "Suicide hotline number" climbed 21percent.
John Ayers, a research professor at San Diego State University and the lead author of the paper, said,
"The time for rhetorical debate is over. While 13 Reasons Why has certainly caused the conversation to begin – it's raised awareness, and we do see a variety of suicide-related searches increasing – our worst fears were confirmed. That is, thousands of people, thousands more, are searching online about ways to kill themselves."
"We always believed this show would increase discussion around this tough subject matter. This is an interesting quasi experimental study that confirms this. We are looking forward to more research and taking everything we learn to heart as we prepare for season two."
For example, the W.H.O. recommends avoiding detailed descriptions or portrayals of a suicide method. The series didn't take this to heart at all. Instead, it graphically depicted the main character killing herself, while another character narrated how she did it.
"Psychiatrists have expressed grave concerns because the show ignores the World Health Organization's validated media guidelines for preventing suicide. The show's staff instead continue to prefer their gut instincts. The show's makers must swiftly change their course of action, including removing the show and postponing a second season."
Suicide is a complicated issue. It's easy to say, "Just stop caring what people think about you," but that doesn't help. Mental health also plays a large role, and the show doesn't delve into that. Instead, it shows the main character as someone who gets even with those that wronged her, and her unrequited love realizing his feelings for her after she's gone. While the show had good intentions, it's execution may have caused more harm than good.