Suicides spiked after death of Robin Williams, study finds

February 7, 2018, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

In the months after Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health documented a marked 10 percent increase in of suicides. While excess suicides were observed across gender and age groups, males aged 30 to 44 were particularly affected. The data also showed there was a 32 percent increase in suffocation suicides in the five months that followed Williams' death by the same method, compared to a 3 percent rise for all suicides from other methods. The findings are reported online in the journal PLOS ONE.

"Research has shown that the number of suicides increases following a high profile celebrity suicide, but this is the first study, to our knowledge, that has examined the effect of a high-profile suicide on the general population within the modern era of the 24-hours news cycle," said David S. Fink, MPH, MPhil, in the Department of Epidemiology.

According to the researchers, 16,849 suicides would be expected from August to December 2014, compared to the 18,690 suicides that were reported for these months following Williams' death. This increase in the number of suicides per month appeared to remain consistent during this period.

"Although we cannot determine with certainty that these deaths are attributable to the death of Robin Williams, we found both a rapid increase in suicides in August 2014, and specifically suffocation suicides, that paralleled the time and method of Williams' death," observed Fink.

The details of Williams' suicide were widely reported in the media in the days and weeks that followed. Although he had struggles with a form of dementia, the initial reports on Williams' death did not mention the condition.

To conduct the study, the researchers analyzed U.S. monthly from the Centers for Disease Control from January 1999 to December 2015 by sex, age, and method. They also used Bloomberg Terminal's news trend function to identify the number of global English-language news media reports on suicide and Robin Williams compared to news media reports from June 2013 to January 2015.

News media reports with the terms "suicide" and "dead," and the name "Robin Williams" drastically increased in the weeks after Williams' suicide. His death was also followed by an increased number of online posts in the "SuicideWatch" forum, a suicide support platform on Reddit, and also with changes in posted content linked to suicidal ideation.

Celebrity suicide effects have led to the World Health Organization to establish media guidelines for reporting a high profile celebrity death, including sensitivity around the method of suicide, the precipitating factors, and the risk factors for suicide apparent in the deceased. Popular news media headlines suggest that media guidelines for suicide reporting tended to deviate from the established suicide reporting guidelines in the case of Williams.

Fink says it is also important to point out the role of social as a new and emerging risk factor for how information is disseminated after the death of a celebrity. For example, in the case of Kurt Cobain's suicide in 1994, , there was minimal change in rates.

"Williams' may have provided the necessary stimulus for high-risk segments of the U.S. population, especially middle-aged men in despair, to move from suicidal ideation to attempt," said Fink.

Explore further: Media coverage of a celebrity suicide can cause a large-scale copycat effect

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4 comments

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julianpenrod
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2018
An important point no one seems to want to touch.
What the "news" keeps trying to push as the cause of Robin Williams' "suicide" is a lie.
He was not committing suicide, he was engaging in autoerotic asphyxiation.
The method, of leaning forward with a rope around his throat, connected to a door knob is a characteristic method of autoerotic asphyxiation. The "official story", that he "hanged" himself is absolutely implausible. Most if not all who commit suicide, want it top be quick. They hang themselves not to asphyxiate, but, rather, the break their neck! No one is legitimately indicated to have willingly engaged in asphyxiation to kill themselves. It takes too long and gives someone the chance to think otherwise. Someone like that looking for erotic stimulation is not is a desperate state. They don't think about alternatives. They can easily fixate on the erotic stimulation and ignore the damage it is doing to them.
julianpenrod
1 / 5 (1) Feb 07, 2018
A major question with respect to this is, why is the "press" trying to convince people this is something it was not.
Ojorf
1 / 5 (1) Feb 08, 2018
Why are you?
mqr
not rated yet Feb 08, 2018
The USA has a hatred problem. Besides the severe lying problem (funny how the liberals try to blame trump because of the lying..... by the way liberal Americans, it has been a while without an American "scientific study" saying that men talk more than women.... or that minorities are prompt to crime..... sarcasm).

People keep killing themselves by any means possible (e.g., opiods, meth, food, alcohol, bullets, etc), and everyone, left and right, keep lying about it: oh no, he was not trying to kill himself, he was just drinking few liters of whisky - he was just thirsty. A man grabs weapons and shoots at bystanders, and everyone is ''puzzled".

Lying + hatred = imminent self-destruction

But hey, let´s build that wall..... to see if protects the USA against themselves.

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