Robin Williams’ death linked to rise in copycat suicides

Williams poses as he arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills
FILE PHOTO: Actor Robin Williams poses as he arrives at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts Los Angeles Britannia Awards in Beverly Hills, California November 30, 2011. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

February 8, 2018

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Suicide rates in the United States spiked almost 10 percent following the death in 2014 of actor Robin Williams, and spiked even more among men and those who ended their lives, like Williams, by suffocation, according to a study published on Wednesday.

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 suicide in 1994 of Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain, for example, appeared to have a minimal impact on suicide rates in his Seattle home town, partly because of more restricted reporting, the study said.

“The media industry can positively or negatively influence imitation suicides,” the study said. “Popular news media headlines suggest that media guidelines for suicide reporting were not followed in the case of Mr. Williams.”

The study used data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler)

16 Comments on "Robin Williams’ death linked to rise in copycat suicides"

  1. OR was it the ‘hanging in the closet’ death of Kung Fu and Kill Bill star David Carradine?

  2. People are sheep. Even to the end.

  3. Kevin Riley | February 8, 2018 at 8:04 am |

    My brother committed suicide 9 days after Robin Williams did.
    He did it in the same manner that Robin Williams did.
    He had access to a firearm and could’ve done it that way but didn’t.
    I don’t believe that my brother chose to commit suicide because of Robin Williams but I definitely believe the method was influenced.

  4. Suicidees cannot be buried in hallowed grounds.
    Suicidees are not entitled to Church Services.
    Their souls, if any, will proceed to Hell.
    Lesson: Do Not Commit Suicide.
    Just, DIE naturally.
    Chances are, you’d be a DREAMER in

  5. Population control still needs improvement… focus on increasing the volume of commie democrats please…

    All the emotional comments are stimulating and wasted energy… Live or don’t…. Happy or not,,,, those are all choices…

  6. Still miss Robin Williams to this day….

    • CPO(Ret)_Luv'n_Life | February 8, 2018 at 6:52 am |

      He was an amazing multi-talented actor. Such a great loss of someone who brought so much laughter to others. Just goes to show you can’t “judge a book by it’s cover”. And then, the disease of dementia is horrible. My mother has suffered from it for going on about 8 years now. Her short term memory is all but gone, and her long term memory is now being affected. I spoke with her two nights ago, and she didn’t remember that I had served, let alone retired, from the Navy.

  7. always a “study” trying to explain some mental illness. Let the man`s death alone already

  8. All American | February 8, 2018 at 1:57 am |

    Reuters AP really reaching article considering the key: “Although the study could not prove a definitive link”

  9. I don’t know how to put this without sounding callous, but when I read about a suicide it makes me appreciate my life even more.

  10. ...remain calm and return fire | February 7, 2018 at 8:47 pm |

    NTs are prone to hysterical emulation. They have a very difficult time staying focued.

  11. Kurt Cobain “Suicide” BS, all evidence that wasn’t destroyed by the police points right at Courtney Love.

  12. FreedomEcho | February 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm |

    I was affected by Williams death as I adored him. Had I been suffering other forms of depression, it would have been a dangerous factor. And since we are all having this discussion, when men self asphyxiate, there is always another question about their intent. Of course no one wants to talk about it nor remember some one we all loved in that way. David Carradine is another of course. It would be less damaging to think it was an accident rather than we missed the signs.

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