Television, Teenagers and Suicide Risk

Did you know that Netflix’s Thirteen Reasons Why is scheduled to release its third season this coming spring? The popular show addresses a lot of big issues among teens like bullying, depression, sexual assault and suicide. While this show is a hit with many teens and young adults, it may also cause a lot of stress and anxiety for its viewers. In fact, a recent study showed that about half of their patients who came to the hospital for suicidal thoughts and who watched the show said that the show increased their risk of suicide.

Have you ever felt like a TV show you watched made you feel upset or stressed? If you do watch these shows and feel upset, or if you ever feel upset or sad in general, it’s important to talk to a trusted adult about these feelings. Some signs of depression to watch out for are feeling sad a lot, sleeping a lot more or less than usual, not wanting to do your normal activities or hang out with your friends, or feeling like things that used to make you happy no longer do. Sometimes people who feel sad or depressed may also feel suicidal. Though that word can mean different things for different people, it often means that they don’t want to live anymore. These thoughts can be really scary! It’s important to tell a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher, counselor or health care provider if you have these thoughts. This can be the first step towards helping you not feel this way anymore.

Teenagers and young adults today have a lot going on and everyone needs a little help dealing with stress! It’s difficult to balance school, friends, sports, activities, relationships and family life. If you do feel depressed or overwhelmed, there are many different ways you can get help. Counseling, also called therapy, is a great first step. A counselor can help you talk through your feelings and can give you useful tools to help you cope and feel better. You can start by talking to your school counselor! Some people just get counseling during school hours but if you need more help, your school counselor can refer you to someone who is right for you. It can be scary the first time you talk to a counselor, but remember, you are not alone. About 1 in 5 teenagers report feeling depressed or anxious and suicidal thoughts are common. Just like you would go to a special doctor if you broke a bone or if you had a heart problem, there are also healthcare providers to help with your mental health as well!

In addition to counseling, sometimes people take medicine to help with their feelings of depression or anxiety. Many teens feel like these medicines help a lot. It’s important to talk to your health care provider, parent or counselor about these options if you feel like you need more support.

Although one study showed that Thirteen Reasons Why may increase suicidal thoughts, another research study showed that many teenagers felt like the show was good for them to watch and has made them more aware of how they treat other people. This study also showed that about half the parents who watched the show with their teenagers felt like it made it easier to talk about tough subjects such as bullying or suicide with their teens.

If you feel depressed, sad or anxious, it’s important to get help. If you’re having a difficult time with these feelings, reach out to a parent(s), guardian, teacher or health care provider. And always remember, if you or a friend is ever feeling suicidal, be sure to tell a trusted adult such as a parent, teacher or counselor, right away. If you ever have any questions, they can be a great resource for you. You can also call any of the confidential and anonymous numbers below for more help.

  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255,
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone or online
  • Confidential suicide prevention available to anyone in crisis or emotional distress
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-800-565-8860
  • Staffed by transgender people for transgender people to help provide support or give access to resources
  • The Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386,
  • Crisis intervention and suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Crisis Text Line: Text “start” to 741-741 or
  • Access free emotional support via text
  • Available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • IM Hear College Instant Messaging Program:
  • Online instant messaging platform dedicated to providing emotional support and suicide prevention to college students
  • Available 5-9 PM Monday – Friday

– Caroline