Summary of Suicide Contagion and Celebrity Deaths

After celebrities die by suicide, suicide rates increase. People often have suicidal thoughts. They are more likely to act on these thoughts when they hear about others acting on the thoughts. People hear about suicides in their friend groups and families. They also hear about suicide through the media. Suicide contagion is a name for people killing themselves after hearing about others’ suicides.

Effects of reporting methods

How the media reports celebrity suicides can make a difference. Reports should be truthful and short. They should not be repetitive. Suicide is a complex issue and involves many factors. Reports should not say that recent stressful events led to the suicides. They should not include details on methods. They should not glorify the victim. They should not give the idea that the suicide was for fame.

In the video below, Morgan discusses this research and the recent death of Anthony Bourdain.

Summary of the Article

Researchers used time-series analysis to compare the actual and expected numbers of suicides following the death of Robin Williams, a famous comedian and actor. They looked at monthly suicide counts in the United States from 1999 to 2015. These were collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They estimated that the number of suicides from August to December 2014 should be 16,849. However, there were ,18690 suicides. That is 1,841 more suicides than expected (a 9.85% increase). The increased suicide rates were observed across all gender and age groups. However, the increase was greatest in those age 30 to 44 (12.9%).

Typically, there is a seasonal pattern of fewer suicides occurring in the winter with the fewest in February and more in the summer months. After the spike in August 2014 to December 2014, the rates followed a typical pattern in 2015.

What is time series analysis?

Time-series analysis is examining data collected at discrete time points to identify overall trends in data. It assumes that the data follows a specific pattern. Random noise may make this pattern hard to identify. Random noise must be filtered out. There are two main parts to the analysis: trend and seasonality. Trend measures the general linear pattern over time. This pattern does not repeat within the time you look at. Seasonality looks at patterns which repeat in predictable ways over time.

Works Cited

Fink DS, Santaella-Tenorio J, Keyes KM (2018) Increase in suicides the months after the death of Robin Williams in the US. PLoS ONE 13(2): e0191405.