Experts are worried that impressionable teenagers may be influenced by social media or TV shows that ‘romanticise’ the act of suicide.

THE grieving families of two California teenagers who committed suicide last April, just days after watching Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why, said the show acted as a trigger for their daughters. Bella Herndon, who was three days shy of 16, and Priscilla Chui, who had battled depression and struggled in school, did not know each other, but had watched the show at around the same time and died four days apart.

In the series, based on Jay Asher’s New York Times bestseller of the same name and produced by pop star Selena Gomez, young Hannah Baker committed suicide, and her reasons for doing so are contained in a series of cassette tapes she mailed to her classmates.

A few months ago, a college student in the Klang Valley allegedly imitated what he saw in the show by jumping off a building to his death. His friends were shocked by the incident as they had seen similar behavior in other friends, who watched the series.

In 2016, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur reported 7,446 calls related to suicide; 26 percent of them were students.

Social media and teen shows can be very influential in the lives of young adults today because it’s about wanting to connect; to be in tune with every single experience that life can offer them, said HELP University counseling psychologist Dr. Gerard Louis.

“They don’t want to be left out yet ironically, this generation of young people describe themselves as isolated and excluded. Many studies are beginning to show that there is a connection between heavy social media use and feeling isolated.”

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