The Robin Williams’ Effect
While the factors that contribute to every suicide are different, Fink says a common theory is that many cases share three precursors: a breakdown in the person’s social structure, access to a means of suicide and an ability to overcome a natural fear of death. A high-profile celebrity suicide may partially fulfill the third element, Fink says.
8 February 2018
Robin Williams’ death linked to rise in copycat suicides
The study, published in the scientific journal PLOS One, found that in the five months from August to December 2014 some 18,690 deaths by suicide were recorded – an increase of 9.85 percent from the expected number of cases for the period.
Williams, the Oscar-winning star of “Good Morning, Vietnam” who was beloved for his humor, died in August 2014 at age 63 in a suicide that shocked fans worldwide. Authorities said he died of asphyxia after hanging himself at his home in northern California. An autopsy found that Williams was suffering from Lew body dementia, which causes a progressive decline in mental ability.
Suicides following Williams’ death rose by 12.9 percent in men aged 30-44, and the study found a 32 percent increase in the number of deaths from suffocation.
Although the study could not prove a definitive link, it said there appeared to be a connection. Extensive media coverage of Williams’ death “might have proved the necessary stimulus for high-risk segments of the U.S. population (e.g. middle-aged men in despair) to move from suicidal ideation to attempt.”
While the effects of widely reported celebrity suicides have previously been linked to increases in the wider population, the study said media coverage of Williams’ suicide was particularly detailed and sensational and was amplified through social media.
The study used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler
Suicides spiked by 10% after Robin Williams’ death, a new study says
Widespread media coverage may have contributed to a 10% increase in suicides following Robin Williams’ highly publicized death, according to a new study.
In the four months after Williams’ death by suicide in August 2014, CDC data revealed that there were 18,690 deaths by suicide in the U.S. — significantly more than the 16,849 suicides that past data and trends would have predicted for that time period, according to an analysis published Wednesday in PLOS ONE.
“When you looked at the data, you didn’t need statistics to see that something happened,” says study author David Fink, a doctoral candidate in epidemiology at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. “You see this very large spike in August that you can just tell is off.”
The study is among the first to examine the impact of celebrity suicide in the U.S. (One paper in 1996 paper focused on Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain’s death two years earlier.) While the research doesn’t prove that Williams’ death, and the resulting news coverage and social media response, caused the observed spike in suicides, a number of parallels suggest that it at least played a part, Fink says.
For one thing, the jump was particularly significant among men ages 30 to 44, a demographic similar to the actor’s. A disproportionate number of the victims also died by strangulation, as many news outlets reported that Williams did, according to the paper.
That overlap isn’t very surprising, Fink says. While the factors that contribute to every suicide are different, Fink says a common theory is that many cases share three precursors: a breakdown in the person’s social structure, access to a means of suicide and an ability to overcome a natural fear of death. A high-profile celebrity suicide may partially fulfill the third element, Fink says.
“When you see somebody that you can relate to that has overcome this natural fear of death, you might be able to relate to that and take the same behaviors you were incapable of prior,” he says. “That’s why we expect to see the same demographics.”
Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, killed himself.
SUICIDE ACROSS THE GENERATIONS: THE HEMINGWAYS
Ernest Hemingway, Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, killed himself. Before that, his father had killed himself. Next came a sister, Ursula, and a brother, Leicester. Finally, a grand daughter, Margo, killed herself. Five suicides across four generations!
1 The first was Clarence Hemingway, who died on 6 December 1928. Shot himself with his father’s Smith and Wesson .32 revolver. He was Ernest Hemingway’s father. Clarence Hemingway was born on September 4, 1871. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1893 and later received his medical degree from Rush Medical College. He married Grace Hall on October 1, 1896 and they had six children together. He was a very devoted husband and father. Clarence Hemingway shot himself on December 6, 1928 with his father’s Smith and Wesson .32 revolver. His death greatly affected his son Ernest. Throughout much of his life, Ernest Hemingway harbored a great deal of hatred for his mother. This hatred was mainly fueled from his belief that his mother was responsible for his father’s 1928 suicide. In a 1948 letter to Malcom Cowley, Hemingway wrote: “I hated my mother as soon as I knew the score and loved my father until he embarrassed me with his cowardice.… My mother is an all time all american bitch and she would make a pack mule shoot himself; let alone poor bloody father.”
2 Ernest Hemingway, died July 2, 1961. He shot himself with his favorite shotgun. He unlocked the basement storeroom where his guns were kept, went upstairs to the front entrance foyer of their Ketchum home, and pushed two shells into the twelve-gauge shotgun …put the end of the barrel into his mouth, pulled the trigger and blew out his brains. During his final years, Hemingway’s behavior was similar to his father’s before he himself committed suicide; his father may have had the genetic disease hemochromatosis, in which the inability to metabolize iron culminates in mental and physical deterioration. Medical records made available in 1991 confirm that Hemingway’s hemochromatosis had been diagnosed in early 1961. Added to Hemingway’s physical ailments was the additional problem that he had been a heavy drinker for most of his life.
3 Ursula Hemingway, daughter and 3rd child of Clarence Hemingway, died 30 October, 1966. Overdosed on drugs. Sibling if Ernest Hemingway. Ursula Hemingway was born on April 29, 1902. She graduated from Carleton College in 1925, became a well-known artist in Honolulu and was responsible for creating the Ernest Hemingway Memorial Award for creative writing at the University of Hawaii. On October 30, 1966, Ursula Hemingway, suffering from cancer and depression, overdosed on drugs.
4 Leicester Hemingway, died September 1982. Shot himself with a .22 pistol. Sibling of Ernest Hemingway. Leicester Hemingway was born on April 1, 1915. He was the sixth of six children born to Clarence and Grace Hemingway and the only brother of Ernest Hemingway. After being told by doctors that a severe case of Type II diabetes might cost him both legs, Leicester Hemingway shot himself with a .22 pistol in September of 1982.
5 Margot Hemingway (Margaux), grand daughter of Ernest Hemingway, died 1 July 1996 of an overdose of phenobarbital.
Margot Hemingway was born on February 16, 1955. Throughout her life, Margot struggled with alcoholism, bulimia, and epilepsy. Due to her dyslexia, she did not read many of the books written by her grandfather. She openly admitted that she was not a Hemingway aficionado. On July 1, 1996, Margot Hemingway died from an overdose of phenobarbital. Go to the links below for more:
It’s not known exactly why as Hemingway didn’t leave a suicide note. What is known is that he was a very heavy drinker and a very depressed man. Some speculate that … Cached ————————————————————————————————————/Q/Why_did_Ernest_Hemingway_commit_suicide –
|July 2 1962|
|The Hemingways and Suicide|
by Steve King On this day in 1961 Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at the age of sixty-one. There have been five suicides in the Hemingway family over four generations — Hemingway’s father, Clarence; siblings Ursula, Leicester and Ernest; granddaughter Margaux. The generation skipped was just barely: Hemingway’s youngest son, Gregory, died in 2001 as a transsexual named Gloria, of causes that put a lot of strain on the term “natural.” Ernest Hemingway – The Hemingways and Suicide
|Died||July 1, 1996 (aged 42) Santa Monica, California, U.S.|
|Cause of death||Suicide by drug overdose|
|Resting place||Ketchum Cemetery, Ketchum, Idaho, U.S.|
The Study of Suicide by Emile Durkheim
A Brief Overview
Suicide by founding sociologist Émile Durkheim is a classic text in sociology that is widely taught to students within the discipline. Published in 1897, the work is considered groundbreaking both for showcasing an in-depth case study of suicide that revealed that there can be social causes to suicide, and because it was the first book to present a sociological study.
Durkheim argued that suicide can be caused by social factors, not just individual psychological ones. Durkheim reasoned that social integration in particular is a factor. The more socially integrated a person is–connected to society and generally feeling that they belong and that their life makes sense within the social context–the less likely they are to commit suicide.
As social integration decreases, people are more likely to commit suicide.
Durkheim developed a theoretical typology of suicide to explain the differing effects of social factors and how they might lead to suicide. They are as follows.
- Anomic suicide occurs when a person experiences anomie — a sense of disconnection from society and a feeling of not belonging that result from weakened social cohesion. Anomie occurs during period of serious social, economic, or political upheaval, which results in quick and extreme changes to society and everyday life. In such circumstances a person might feel so confused and disconnected that they choose to commit suicide.
- Altruistic suicide happens when there is excessive regulation of individuals by social forces, such that a person will be moved to kill themselves for the benefit of a cause or for society at large. An example is someone who commits suicide for the sake of a religious or political cause, such as the infamous Japanese Kamikaze pilots of World War II, or the hijackers of the airplanes that crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania on in 2001. In such social circumstances, people are so strongly integrated into social expectations and society itself that they will kill themselves in an effort to achieve collective goals.
- Egoistic suicide happens when people feel totally detached from society. Ordinarily, people are integrated into society by work roles, ties to family and community, and other social bonds. When these bonds are weakened through retirement or loss of family and friends, the likelihood of egoistic suicide increases. Elderly people who lose these ties are the most susceptible to egoistic suicide.
- Fatalistic suicide occurs under conditions of extreme social regulation that result in oppressive conditions and a denial of the self and of agency. In such a situation a person may elect to die rather than continue enduring the oppressive conditions, such as the case of suicide among prisoners.
Updated by Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D.