Suicide Deaths Are Often “Contagious.” This May Help Explain Why

May 17, 2019

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News


Recent findings offer insight on how exposure to a suicide death can increase suicide risk. Researchers conducted dozens of interviews in a wealthy U.S. suburb with a high youth suicide rate. The community had experienced clusters of suicide deaths that all included a popular, successful young woman. According to interviews, many in the community believed that its high-pressure culture led to the suicide deaths. That belief may have increased risk among other youth by making them think suicide was a reasonable solution to their own experiences of pressure, the authors concluded. Stories that make suicide seem like a normal response to a common problem can increase risk. Communities can help by sharing accurate information about suicide, promoting stories of hope, and encouraging those who are struggling to reach out. “There is some suggestive evidence that narratives or stories about resilience have potentially positive protective effects,” said lead author Seth Abrutyn, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of British Columbia.

Spark Extra! Read the study abstract.