Saturday, March 18, 2017
Exaggerated or not in the case of Young Werther, the phenomenon of copycat suicides is unfortunately very real. In 1974, a University of California San Diego sociologist named David Phillips found that suicides in Britain and the U.S. between 1947 and 1968 increased after a suicide story ran in local newspapers, a contagion he termed “the Werther effect,” after Goethe’s novel. Subsequent research has confirmed that well-publicized cases of apparent suicide are significantly linked to subsequent suicides, with the prevalence of such copycat suicides being four times higher in young adults than other age groups. Some speculate, for example, that Marilyn Monroe’s apparent overdose in 1962 temporarily raised suicide rates by as much as 12 percent.
That should give my suicidal readers pause.