Having a schoolmate commit suicide significantly increases the chance that a teenager will consider or attempt suicide themselves, according to a new study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
The study surveyed more than 22,000 Canadian children aged 12 to 17. They were asked if anyone in their school, or anyone they knew personally had died by suicide and if they had seriously considered attempting suicide themselves in the past year. The researchers found that the risk of suicide was magnified even if the child did not know the deceased student personally.
Researchers found 12 to 13-year-old children were at greatest risk and were five times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than teens who had not been exposed to a death. According to the study, 7.5% of these children attempted suicide after a fellow student did, compared to 1.7% of adolescents in this age group who did not have a schoolmate attempt suicide.
“The bottom line is that the suicide contagion theory may be real,” says senior author Ian Colman, the Canada Research Chair in mental health epidemiology and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa. “Being exposed to a suicide appears to be strongly associated with suicidal thinking and suicidal behavior and these effects may persist for a long time.
Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education