UT expert studies impact of '13 Reasons Why' on suicide

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- Experts said the controversial Netflix hit "13 Reasons Why" raises concerns for safety around the country.

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The show has become a topic of conversation among parents and teenagers.

Local 8 News spoke to Caitlin Clevenger, a clinical psychologist expert, who believes the show could increase the risks of suicides.

Clevenger studies suicidal behavior among victims of violence as well as those who have been exposed to suicides. She studies how that exposure could increase the risks of suicide, whether suicides are presented in real-life situations or on a screen.

Clevenger said she doesn't want viewers to suffer in silence, like the main character in the hit series.

The UT expert also said she doesn't like what the show represents, especially when creators show the main character taking her own life. She noted that the creators of the show wanted it to be entertaining, emotion evoking, and ultimately an art form that would compel people to be honest and real, while helping to de-stigmatize conversations about suicide and sexual assault.

"They pulled that off, and their intentions were good," Clevenger said in a release from the University of Tennessee. "But there are some serious problems with the series."

Clevenger told Local 8 News the only positive takeaway from the show is the importance of giving viewers a chance to talk about suicide and how to prevent it.

In an effort to keep other viewers from taking their lives, Clevenger used her education to make sure everyone knows their lives matter.

"I've been developing a measure on suicidal exposure," said Clevenger. "So something I would like to do is ask questions about media exposure, like what kinds of shows that they watched that might have exposed them or introduced them to suicide," she added.

Clevenger said she also plans to ask her younger clients how "13 Reasons Why" affects them or impacts their current state of depression.