Insights into the processes of suicide contagion: Narratives from young people bereaved by suicide

Bell, Jo; Stanley, Nicky; Mallon, Sharon and Manthorpe, Jill (2015). Insights into the processes of suicide contagion: Narratives from young people bereaved by suicide. Suicidology Online, 6(1) pp. 43–52.

URL: http://www.suicidology-online.com/pdf/SOL-ISSUE-6-...

Abstract

Abstract: Death by suicide can have a profound and long lasting impact on the people left behind. Research has demonstrated that, in comparison to the general population, those bereaved by suicide, particularly young people, are at increased risk for suicide. However, the process of suicide contagion, as it has now become widely known, is poorly understood.
This paper examines the phenomenon of suicide contagion amongst young people who have been bereaved by suicide with data from research into student suicide in the UK (Stanley et al., 2007). It presents two in-depth case studies which draw upon participants’ narratives of their experiences of suicide and their perceptions of
suicide contagion. One explores the suicide of two close friends in succession and the subsequent belief among friends that this was contagious. The second explores another young person’s own view of ‘suicide as contagious’, formed following the suicide of her best friend. Our analysis provides insights into the processes of suicide contagion and transmission not previously described, including identification, internalisation, and imitation and also Edwin Shneidman’s assertion that suicide is the result of psychological pain.

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