IThe Internet is currently controversial about the American Netflix series “Dead girls do not lie”, in the original “13 reasons why” discussed. Should one forbid such films? Or do they help young people because they address taboo topics? The series features high school student Hannah Baker. She leaves audio cassettes where she mentions 13 reasons. She was stalked, insulted and harassed, she tells of bullying and exclusion that she has published intimate photos of her and raped her.
In parallel, two research groups in a publication have shown that the series may have killed other teenagers. Psychiatrists know this “imitator effect” in the suicide of well-known personalities, such as Robin Williams. “Whether that's the case with fictional stories, has not been clear so far,” says Thomas Niederkrotenthaler, head of a study and suicide researcher at the Medical University of Vienna. He calculated that after the series was launched in late March 2017, 13 percent more teens than those in their teens were killed in the next three months. Statistically it would be 710 suicides, but in fact it was 94 more. The researchers from the other study from Ohio observed an almost thirty percent higher suicide rate in April 2017 than in the previous months – the highest monthly rate in the past five years.
Take the filmmakers more seriously into the duty
“Young people often think of taking their own lives,” says Paul Plener, who worked for years at the University Hospital in Ulm and now heads the child and adolescent psychiatry at the University Hospital in Vienna. “The hormones play crazy, neurobiological remodeling takes place in the brain, the young people want to leave home and have to find their place among their peers, which can put a lot of psychological strain.” 40 out of 100 adolescents, according to a study from the university hospital Erlangen, have ever thought of killing themselves, and nine out of 100 have tried. He was annoyed by the basic message of the series, says Plener. “The social worker Hannah addresses to her distress is portrayed as being totally incompetent. No wonder that young people feel misunderstood. Suicide is shown as the only way out. “
Sometimes it is true that teachers, school psychologists or social workers do not know how to help a suicidal adolescent. “The school management still has to ensure that there is at least one expert.” As a teenager in such a situation, one often does not dare to confide in someone. “As a classmate, friend, father or mother, it is best to say that you are very worried and offer to accompany the person concerned to a specialist”, Plener advises. Niederkrotenthaler says the filmmakers have to be much more accountable, because the entertainment industry can play an important role in prevention.
This is called the “Papageno effect”: When the bird catcher in the famous opera wants to kill himself from heartache, the three boys hold him back by clues. “It's good to talk about suicide, but you should show help and how someone came out of a supposedly hopeless situation,” says Niederkrotenthaler. “Movies can be a lifeline.”