Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why? Here's why.

(Inspired by a post from Roberta X)

In the aftermath of a mass murder, lots of folks, myself included, notice that these things occur in multiples.  It seems that there is a good scientific reason at work.

A copycat suicide is defined as an emulation of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows about either from local knowledge or due to accounts or depictions of the original suicide on television and in other media.

A spike of emulation suicides after a widely publicized suicide is known as the Werther effect, following Goethe's novel The Sorrows of Young Werther.


The well-known suicide serves as a model, in the absence of protective factors, for the next suicide. This is referred to as suicide contagion. They occasionally spread through a school system, through a community, or in terms of a celebrity suicide wave, nationally. This is called a suicide cluster. Suicide clusters are caused by the social learning of suicide related behaviors, or "copycat suicides". Point clusters are clusters of suicides in both time and space, and have been linked to direct social learning from nearby individuals. Mass clusters are clusters of suicides in time but not space, and have been linked to the broadcasting of information concerning celebrity suicides via the mass media Examples of celebrities whose suicides have inspired suicide clusters include Ruan Lingyu, the Japanese musicians Yukiko Okada and hide, and Marilyn Monroe, whose death was followed by an increase of 200 more suicides than average for that August month.

You can spend quite some time running down all the references and concepts in the Wikipedia article, and you probably ought to.  I have, and it's an interesting if disturbing subject.

But what I take from it is an affirmation of something else I have considered in light of current events.  In the aftermath of one of these shootings, not only should the alert individual be extra alert when out and about, but should give special consideration to avoiding the sorts of locales where the recent events have take place--in our current case, shopping malls and schools--if possible.  If the theories are correct, those are the locations where the likelihood of a copycat act are the highest.

Not a comforting thought when you have to send your kid back into a potential killing zone Monday morning.  I think we're going to review my instructions on what to do if you hear gunshots.  Short version--get the hell out of that school, even if you have to do it while they're screaming at you to stop.  Head for the trees, call 911 and me in that order, and make your way home under cover as much as possible.  Avoid any police at all costs (face it, this will look suspicious to them).

I'll deal with the fallout with the school.  I don't want to deal with burying my son.

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