RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics

From: Wade T.Smith (
Date: Thu Apr 19 2001 - 15:01:49 BST

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    Subject: RE: Is Suicide Contagious? A Case Study in Applied Memetics
    Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 10:01:49 -0400
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    On 04/19/01 09:13, Vincent Campbell said this-

    >My beef
    >is in relation to the mediation part of the issue- that mediated suicide
    >(e.g. press reports, or TV dramatisations) lead to suicides in previously
    >non-suicidal people.

    One wonders if non-suicidal people _ever_ commit suicide? It seems
    impossible- it is certainly unlogical semantically.

    Japan has a long and traditional culture of suicide, and there is an
    'honor' code among european males to remove themselves from disgrace in
    this fashion. The typical last scene with the off-stage gunshot....
    Places of high expectation, graduate schools, etc., have long histories
    of student suicides, until recently actively suppressed in the media (at
    least at Harvard and at MIT), but, continuing and constant with a
    reliable frequency nonetheless.

    Contagion itself, in this sort of behavior changing context, might be
    suspect. It is one thing to get someone to change their shirt color, and
    quite another to get them to change their spots, or remove them....

    When I was in high school there were two suicides I knew about in my
    small New England town, both male, both possibly because of sexual
    identity issues. I was unaware of the sexuality side of both cases, even
    though I was acquainted with one of them (it's no secret that the USA in
    the late 50's/early 60's was a hotbed of repression, but, also, I was
    very, very, naive as well as being somehow oblivious), but I do remember
    thinking that both of them were blinking idiots to kill themselves, and I
    was surprised at the strength of my distaste, but I also knew not to
    voice this to anyone else, especially those friends who were distressed
    and hurt. I wrote a poem at the time about the uselessness of this choice.

    And to this day, I can only relate to the choice of suicide in a dramatic
    or intellectual way- it has never been one of the choices I've offered
    myself. It would seem to me, that exposure to suicidal types would only
    make my distaste of their actions more full.

    So, I'd perhaps be a bad experimental subject in any of these studies....

    Or maybe not. One does need all extremes of data.

    - Wade

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