Teen Suicide May Be “Contagious,” Says Canadian Study

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A new report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests that teenagers may be at greater risk if they know of classmates that have committed suicide.

The study evaluated more than 20,000 young people, ages 12-to-17, throughout Canada, with researchers noting that peer suicides had an especially strong impact on younger teens. According to the report, 12- and 13-year old students were more than five times likelier to experience suicide ideation following a classmate’s suicide than students in the age group who have not known a schoolmate that has killed him or herself.

Fifteen percent of respondents reported having suicidal thoughts following a peer suicide, the study reads, compared to just 3 percent of respondents who have not known a classmate that has committed suicide. An estimated 7.5 percent of youth that have known a peer to commit suicide have attempted suicide themselves, whereas researchers said that just 1.7 percent of young people who have not known a peer to commit suicide have ever made attempts to end their own life.

While less pronounced, the rates held true for older teens, with 14- and 15-year olds that knew a peer that committed suicide three times likelier to think about killing themselves than others in the age range, while 16- and 17-year-olds that knew a peer that committed suicide were found to be twice as likely to have suicide ideation than their same-age cohorts.

University of Ottawa researcher Ian Colman told CTV News that young people may be likelier to kill themselves following a peer’s death, due in part to both the romanticization of suicide and witnessing an outpouring of support from locals in the wake of a teen’s death.

“For vulnerable kids, this might be the first time that they think that suicide might be a solution to their problems,” he stated. “Then for those vulnerable youth, they might see suicide [as] an attractive solution.”