13 reasons TV shows help teenagers address mental health issues

In 2017, the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why was a huge hit. That being said, there was also real controversy very quickly that the streaming platform would have done well. Suicides, rape scenes … the program contains very violent moments that can hurt the audience’s feelings. So much so, in fact, that the National Association of American School Psychologists has spoken out on the subject, advising “young people at risk, especially those who may have thought of suicide,” not to look at this fiction.

However, Netflix had done everything possible to avoid this by issuing a warning at the start of playback and the start of major episodes. The service also added a half-hour video that featured actors, producers, and mental health experts explaining the choices made in 13 Reasons Why.

Storytelling for global wellbeing

A few years later, and beyond this controversy, the approach seems to have paid off. At least that is the result of a study by the Center of Scholars and Storytellers at the University of California in Los Angeles.

The researchers interviewed 157 teenagers, 68 of whom were watching the series’ third season. 92% of them searched for information on the mental health issues covered in this program. A large majority also said they spoke on topics such as suicide, mental health and harassment.

Quoted by Deadline, Yalda Uhls, who contributed to this particular work:

Our research has found that teenagers who watch programs that have mental health problems actually talk to their peers, parents, and partners about it. Our results show that these types of engaging and realistic stories inspire young people to talk about and learn more about mental health.

This is also very good because this young audience has been plagued by increased anxiety and depression issues since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, the discussion often continues on social networks. Another survey by MarketCast recorded 1.29 million 13 Reasons Why mentions on Twitter. Internet user engagement was all the greater when the actors themselves shared links to informational sites on mental health.

Scientists therefore believe that this could encourage closer collaboration between content producers and academics. In such matters, real data-based storytelling has the power to make a difference and act for general well-being.

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