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After Death Of Robin Williams, 'Copycat' Suicides Rose In Number, Particularly Among Middle-Aged Men

It's been almost four years since the death of Robin Williams, but for many the very thought that the actor is gone is still shocking. This is especially true in light of the way he left us: suicide.

Williams hanged himself in his home with his belt at the age of 63. His death inspired a slew of 'copycats', researchers say, and suicides rose some 10 percent.

This was probably not a legacy that Williams had in mind when he decided to take his own life. It was later revealed that the Academy Award-winning actor had been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia, a Parkinson's-like disease.

He had also battled depression for years. At the time he chose to take his life, it probably made sense to him.

Columbia University researchers say that widespread reporting about the suicide has sparked a sharp increase in similar deaths. Mostly, it has been men ages 30 to 44 that have opted to take their lives in a similar fashion.

According to researchers, graphic details about how Williams took his life on social media inspired vulnerable fans to do the same.

In the past, suicides have often been downplayed in the news. Williams isn't the first celebrity to take his own life, but he's one of the first major celebrities to do it in the age of media overload.

"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," reports David S. Fink of the Department of Epidemiology.

Researchers on suicide anticipated just under 17,000 suicide deaths between August and December of 2014. After news of Williams broke, that number rose to nearly 18,700. Many believe the constant reporting about Williams and the grisly details surrounding his demise are what boosted the numbers.

"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," Fink explained.

Another problem with the reporting on Williams' death was that there was no mention of the dementia diagnosis until later. People at risk for seriously considering suicide can be encouraged by such high-profile deaths. Middle-aged men struggling with problems are particularly vulnerable.

According to Redding, following Williams' death, their 'Suicide Watch' forum saw a sharp rise in posts from people toying with the idea of suicide. Google searches about suicide and Williams' death also rose in the weeks after the death was reported.

According to Bethany Kassar, a clinical social worker and Executive Director of the Outpatient Services at Summit Behavioral Health, there is no way to avoid reports about suicide in the information age. She says that suicide has even been glamorized by modern society to some extent.

However, she feels it's better for the conversation to come out in the open than it is for people to struggle in silence.

"My daughter, for example, she's 16 and she wanted to watch '13 Reasons Why'; but then there's a conversation about it after," she told the Daily Mail.

'13 Reasons Why' is a Netflix show about a teen who commits suicide.

While it's easy to monitor what teens watch, it's not as easy for adults. "These 30- and 40-year-old men who are really desperate look at someone they've admired or looked up to and think that he found his way out. And it's hard to reason with that," she adds.

"That's why it's really important to have conversations with your loved ones, and to share more information on social media that balances out the suicide details; more information about the down-sides."

Source: Washington Post, MailOnline
Photo: YouTube

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