Teen suicides on the rise as experts examine impact of “13 Reasons Why”

by Emily Baucum, News 4 San Antonio

Photo courtesy MGN Online

SAN ANTONIO – After more than a decade-long decline, teen suicide rates in the United States are on the rise.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released alarming new statistics Thursday showing a 31% increase in teen suicides between 2007 and 2015.

While the largest jump was among adolescent girls, boys are still more likely to take their lives.

Experts say while bullying is often to blame, there are no clear reasons for the national increase in youth suicides.

The report coincides with a new medical study released earlier this week showing the controversial TV show “13 Reasons Why” caused a spike in internet searches for suicide.

The show centers around a teenaged girl who leaves behind cassette tapes explaining why she killed herself.

“Hey. It’s Hannah. Hannah Baker,” she begins the recordings. “If you’re listening to this tape, you’re one of the reasons why.”

Researchers analyzed the show’s impact in a study published by JAMA Internal Medicine, one of the country’s most respected medical journals.

They found in the two-and-a-half week after Netflix released the show, suicide-related search terms jumped 19% overall.

The study broke down some of the top hits. Searches for “how to commit suicide” rose 26% and “teen suicide” increased 34%.

Those numbers are startling, but one finding shows some viewers may have sought help. Searches for “suicide hotline number” jumped 21%.

“If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a parent or a friend or a teacher, lines like Crisis Text Line are available,” says Liz Eddy with Crisis Text Line, a free support service available 24 hours a day nationwide.

We’ve seen cyberbullies use phones as weapons. Crisis Text Line turns them into lifelines to help young people through very hard times – all through text message.

“Kids now don’t even pick up the phone to call their parents,” Eddy says. “So you can imagine when you’re dealing with some of your deepest, darkest situations – going on a medium you already use and trust feels more comfortable.”

She says the service did see a surge from “13 Reasons Why.”

“We did see an increase in texters,” Eddy says. “And we actually saw that about 60% of those texters had, a) never reached out to us before, and b) mentioned it was the first time they had ever talked about the situation they were reaching out to us about.”

The text line analyzes patterns and trends through regions and found for the 210 and 830 area codes in South Texas, the number-one issue among young people was depression.

If you’d like to reach out for help, text “Hello” to 741-741.


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