Can TV shows like '13 Reasons Why' help teens navigate bullying, suicidal thoughts, depression and other mental health issues? Yes, say researchers, but only when these issues are depicted with empathy. The study indicates that these kinds of challenging and realistic stories inspire youth to talk about and learn more about mental health
"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 researcher Yalda Uhls from the University of California -- Los Angeles.
For the study, to be published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the center conducted several studies examining Netflix's controversial series "13 Reasons Why".
It is a teen drama that first aired in 2017 and drew both worldwide acclaim and condemnation for its graphic depictions of suicide, sexual assault, domestic violence, bullying, homelessness and school shootings.
The team wanted to learn how the programme impacted the mental health of teens who viewed it.
In a study of 157 children between the ages of 13 and 17 from across the country, 68 watched Season 3 of "13 Reasons Why," while the others did not.
All participants completed a survey at the beginning of the study about mental health, depression, bullying, sexual assault and related topics and another at the end that asked, among other questions, whether they had sought out information about these issues.
Nearly all the teens -- 62 of 68 -- who watched the programme reported having looked for information on mental health topics related to what they saw.
A vast majority of them also reported discussing the issues it raised with others -- especially suicide, mental health and bullying.
The report recommends that, like the producers of "13 Reasons Why," studios create and provide credible, engaging resources with accurate information to accompany TV shows and films designed for teens that address mental health and related issues.