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Insights into the processes of suicide contagion: narratives from young people bereaved by suicide

Bell, Jo; Stanley, Nicky; Mallon, Sharon; Manthorpe, Jill


Nicky Stanley

Sharon Mallon

Jill Manthorpe


Death by suicide can have a profound and long lasting impact on the people left behind. Research has demonstrated that, in comparison to the general population, those bereaved by suicide, particularly young people, are at increased risk for suicide. However, the process of suicide contagion, as it has now become widely known, is poorly understood. This paper examines the phenomenon of suicide contagion amongst young people who have been bereaved by suicide with data from research into student suicide in the UK (Stanley et al., 2007). It presents two in-depth case studies which draw upon participants’ narratives of their experiences of suicide and their perceptions of suicide contagion. One explores the suicide of two close friends in succession and the subsequent belief among friends that this was contagious. The second explores another young person’s own view of ‘suicide as contagious’, formed following the suicide of her best friend. Our analysis provides insights into the processes of suicide contagion and transmission not previously described, including identification, internalisation, and imitation and also Edwin Shneidman’s assertion that suicide is the result of psychological pain.


Bell, J., Stanley, N., Mallon, S., & Manthorpe, J. (2015). Insights into the processes of suicide contagion: narratives from young people bereaved by suicide. Suicidology online, 6(1), 43-52

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 24, 2014
Online Publication Date Mar 18, 2015
Publication Date 2015
Deposit Date Dec 15, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Suicidology online
Electronic ISSN 2078-5488
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Issue 1
Pages 43-52
Keywords Suicide, Suicide contagion, Student suicide
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Copy of article first published in: Suicidology online, 2015, v.6, issue 1.


Article.pdf (838 Kb)

Copyright Statement
Copyrights belong to the Author(s). Suicidology Online (SOL) is a peer-reviewed open-access journal publishing under the Creative Commons Licence 3.0.

Suicidology Online is published under the following Creative Commons License: Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0

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