Responsibility, entertainment at odds over suicides

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Studies show video games are not linked to violence. Other studies show they are.

Video game creators like to point to the former, while the military routinely uses simulators to train soldiers to carry out their duties.

One of the most popular shows on the Netflix streaming service was “13 Reasons Why,” that depicted a girl ending her life.

Other studies will contradict one published Monday, but this one, by a suicide researcher at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, found that there were 195 more youth suicides than would have normally been expected in the nine months following the March 2017 release of “13 Reasons Why.”

One flaw in the study is that the researcher didn’t know whether anyone who died by suicide during that time had actually watched the show. Neither were researchers able to explore other factors that might have influenced the action.

Nevertheless, 190 U.S. tweens and teens took their own lives in April 2017, .57 per 100,000 people, nearly 30 percent higher than in the previous five years.

Further study found that the April rate was higher than in the previous 19 years.

Convincing portrayals and performances are what makes good entertainment, but the graphic depiction of suicide in “13 Reasons Why” was effective in triggering suicidal behavior, according to the lead researcher.

The study also failed to include the possible influence of the April 19, 2017 suicide of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez, as well as that of a man accused of a Facebook-publicized killing the day before.

Admittedly, there’s a fine line between over-publicizing suicide and ignoring the problem, either of which is a mistake.

But the entertainment industry has a responsibility to consider the consequences of any material it offers to its audience, not just the potential profit.

Information on suicide prevention is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://bit.ly/2WgHUMe ; the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is (800) 273-TALK (8255)

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