Since its controversial series release in 2017, the 13 reasons why Netflix has been more careful when addressing mental health issues by highlighting resources and opening the conversation more carefully. As a result, teen viewers maintain their own discussions and learn about mental health, anxiety, depression, and more, according to a report from the UCLA Center for Scholars and Storytellers (CSS).
CSS conducted several studies that examined the impact of Netflix’s teen drama on the mental health of teens and young adults. In a study of 157 teens, 68 of whom watched the third season of 13 Reasons Why, 92% of viewers searched for information on mental health issues related to what they saw on the show. The vast majority of teens who watched the program reported debates on issues it raised, especially suicide, mental health, and bullying.
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“Our research found that when teens watch TV shows that portray mental health issues, they actually talk about it with their peers, parents, and partners,” said Yalda Uhls, who is also the lead author of the report. and founder and executive director of the center. “Our results show that these kinds of challenging and realistic stories inspire young people to talk and learn more about mental health.”
Uhls added that the results of the study come at a time when teens are facing higher rates of anxiety and depression. During the pandemic, 11- to 17-year-olds have been more likely than any other age group to report moderate to severe anxiety and depression, and 45% of college students perceive the stigma of people receiving treatment. mental health. Prior to Covid-19, teen suicide rates were rising, along with symptoms of anxiety and depression, he noted.
The center also commissioned a study from MarketCast, LLC that tracked more than 1.29 million mentions of 13 Reasons Why on Twitter to examine the conversation around the show on social media. Rhe’s study found that participation on social media was high when program actors published mental health resources. Viewers also participated in discussions on social media about the emotionally charged scenes of the series and the backstage content.
The report suggests that the studies create and provide engaging and credible resources with accurate information to accompany television programs and movies designed for teens that address mental and related health issues. Recommended resources include toolkits developed by public health experts designed to support teens as they discuss these issues with parents and friends.
“Together, we can normalize talking about mental health by bringing together academics and content creators, to unlock the power of research-based storytelling,” Uhls said. “This study provides much-needed evidence to advance the conversation about how a popular Netflix program can affect teen mental health and the lessons learned from it. Accurate information combined with compelling narratives works well.”
The co-authors of the report are Jordan Levinson, a UCLA psychology student; Laurel Felt, senior member of the center; Elise Tsai, UCLA Research Assistant, and Ellen Wartella, Professor of Communication at Northwestern University
Melinda French Gates’ Pivotal Ventures and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s youth technology and mental wellness program funded the center’s mental health initiative.