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Research Letter
October 2017

Internet Searches for Suicide Following the Release of 13 Reasons Why

Author Affiliations
  • 1Graduate School of Public Health, San Diego State University, San Diego, California
  • 2Institute for Disease Modeling, Bellevue, Washington
  • 3University of Washington, Seattle
  • 4New Mexico State University, Las Cruces
  • 5University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, La Jolla, California
  • 6Human Language Technology Center of Excellence, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • 7Keck School of Medicine of USC, University of Southern California, Los Angeles
JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177(10):1527-1529. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.3333

The Netflix series 13 Reasons Why explores the suicide of a fictional teen, and the finale graphically shows the suicide over a 3-minute scene.

The series has generated widespread interest (>600 000 news reports1), including debate about its public health implications. For some viewers, the series glamorizes the victim and the suicide act in a way that promotes suicide, while other viewers hope the series raises suicide awareness. To advance the debate, we examined how internet searches for suicide changed, both in volume and content, after the series’ release.2

Using Google Trends (http://google.com/trends) we obtained search trends including the term “suicide,” except those also mentioning “squad” (a popular film), emerging from the United States. Using the related search terms tool, we also monitored the top 25 terms and the next 5 most related terms to those, yielding 20 terms after ignoring duplicate, unrelated (eg, “suicide slide”), or unclear (eg, “suicide bridge”) terms. Suicide queries were divided by the total number of searches for each day and then scaled to range from 0 to 100, eg, 50 indicates 50% of the highest search proportion. Raw search counts were inferred using Comscore estimates (http://comscore.com).

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