Occasionally a person’s suicide may cause others to copy the act. This may be referred to as “the Werther effect”, alluding to the suicide commited by Werther in Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werthers.


Risk factors for copycat suicide:

(1) The person committing the index suicide is famous (sports figure, movie actor, singer, etc).

(2) The initial suicide is portrayed in a media source in manner that makes it attractive to a susceptible person.

(3) There is increased social or economic stress in the society.

(4) The copycat is a member of cult or tightly knit group.

(5) The copycat is mentally ill.


Reasons to suspect a copycat event:

(1) the subsequent suicides follow the initial suicide temporally at a rate greater than usual

(2) the copycat is obsessed with the initial suicide

(3) the copycat leaves a note or other communication alluding to the first suicide

(4) the method of committing suicide is the same as the index case


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