Copycat suicide

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A copycat suicide is defined as an emulation of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows about either from local knowledge or due to accounts or depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media.

The massive wave of emulation suicides after a widely publicized suicide is known as the Werther effect, following Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.[1]

The well-known suicide serves as a model, in the absence of protective factors, for the next suicide. This is referred to as suicide contagion.[2] They occasionally spread through a school system, through a community, or in terms of a celebrity suicide wave, nationally. This is called a suicide cluster.[2] Examples of celebrities whose suicides have inspired suicide clusters include the Japanese musicians Yukiko Okada and hide.

To prevent this type of suicide, it is customary in some countries for the media to discourage suicide reports except in special cases.



One of the earliest known associations between the media and suicide arose from Goethe's novel Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (The Sorrows of Young Werther), published in 1774. In that work the hero shoots himself after an ill-fated love, and shortly after its publication there were many reports of young men using the same method to commit suicide. This resulted in a ban of the book in several places. Hence the term "Werther effect", used in the technical literature to designate copycat suicides.[3] The term was coined by researcher David Phillips in 1974.[4] Copycat suicide is mostly blamed on the media.

Factors in suicide reporting

The Werther effect not only predicts an increase in suicide, but the majority of the suicides will take place in the same or a similar way as the one publicized. The more similar the person in the publicized suicide is to the people exposed to the information about it, the more likely the age group or demographic is to commit suicide. Upon learning of someone else's suicide, many people decide that action is appropriate for them as well, especially if the publicized suicide was of someone in a similar situation as them.

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