Is Suicide Contagious?
A beloved celebrity dies unexpectedly before their time. And the headline start to quickly pile up and take over social media. But there's no real story yet. No details no explanation just click -able headline with a bunch of photos. Celebrity. Dead at forty, eight, thirty to twenty, four whatever and in the absence of any real information, a question inevitably arises. Was it an overdose or suicide? Unfortunately, I am acutely aware of what it's like when the answer is overdose. Please refer to season one for that story. But when the answer is suicide, how the story is told matters. For so long there has been cautioned around public discussion of suicide. Asking the news media think a little harder by reporting it, they could be perpetuating the story. We touched on this episode one but if media gets the message wrong and that wrong message reaches a struggling person at the wrong time, the consequences can be devastating even fatal. For example. In Two thousand fourteen after beloved comedian actor Robin Williams died by apparent suicide. And that shocking news flooded the headlines. Suicide rates went up by ten percent. This detail got repeated after another prominent suicide death we'll designer kate spade was found dead in her apartment today her death and apparent suicide. We saw after Robin Williams suicide rates went up ten percent. We Know Kate spade reportedly was infatuated with his suicide. which became part of another subsequent suicide. Relearn today we lost a friend and colleague Anthony Bourdain. Anthony is the second public figure to die this way this week. Was the first some experts point to a phenomenon? They call suicide contagion, which often happens moments such as this. And it turns out there is a long historical precedent for this. There's this phenomenon called the weather effect. Stick with me. This won't take long. It is a fancy literary version of the outdated term copycat suicide. And it comes from this seventeen seventy four to novel called the sorrows of Young werther the book spoiler alert and with the sympathetic hero or they're dressed in a blue code and yellow trousers shooting himself after being rejected by someone he loved. In the years that followed so many young men were found dead having shot themselves while dressed as werther that people freaked out and banned the book in several countries. In one, thousand, nine, hundred, sixty, two, when Marilyn Monroe died. The following months were filled with extensive coverage about her apparent suicide. which led to widespread sorrow and an apparent twelve percent uptick in suicides. These are obviously massive national reactions to the loss of our beloved heroes and icons. But you see the same thing happening in communities or someone dies by suicide. All of sudden, you have to worry about the other people in town. Or the kids in the schools. And it brings us to this very complicated question is suicide contagious. This question of course has been plaguing us this whole project not just because we're talking about suicide. But also if I didn't know, we are doing it in the midst of a global pandemic where community spread is all we're talking about. So is it as simple as that? Is suicide something you can catch and if so. How do we protect ourselves. Like. What's the equivalent of a mask for suicide? I'm Stephanie Woodall's Wax and this is last day. We knew early on that, we wanted to talk about contagion but truth be told we didn't totally get what it meant for suicidal thoughts to transfer. Is it like. Flipping a switch not suicidal one moment suicidal the next. And that's how we were thinking about it. Until we heard this. Every morning I wake up and I make agenda for the day. I love plans I love knowing my options. In sixth grade when the first suicide cluster happened in my community when we lost more than three people in one year. It was the first time that suicide became on my list of options when I was going through a problem. I feeling, Sad, one day I think through what the options were. NAPPING, think about hanging my friends I thought about taking my own life I thought about going out. On my list of what I could potentially do to help. Figure it out in solve it. This is Lisa. How speaking at a jet event a few years ago. And when we watch this video something clicked. We knew we had to talk to her. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself like who are you? WHO IS LISA? Yeah. So that's such a hard question sometimes answer. It makes sense that this is a tricky question for Lisa because a lot has changed in a short period of time. Today Lisa is twenty two and she just graduated from college. She's about to start a theory impressive job as an engineer at a little known company called Apple. But. In sixth grade, she was in a very different place at the center of what is probably the most commonly referenced example of suicide. Contagion. Lisa was a student at gun, high school. In Palo Alto California a school that comes up again and again when you start to dig into the concept of suicide. Contagion