A new study found a surge in the number of suicides in the U.S. after comedian Robin Williams took his own life in 2014. The research, published today in the journal PLOS ONE, determined that almost 2,000 additional deaths occurred in the four months following Williams’ suicide — a 10% increase.
CNN notes that the “celebrity-suicide effect” — in which the suicide of a famous person is followed by copycat suicides — has been documented in previous research. But David S. Fink, lead author of the new study and a post-doctoral researcher in epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, said: “This is the first study to examine the consequences of a celebrity suicide in the digital era.”
Williams was found dead on Aug. 11, 2014, at his home in Tiburon, Calif., the victim of an apparent suicide by hanging. He was 63.
Said Fink: “We found both a rapid increase in suicides in August 2014, and specifically suffocation suicides, that paralleled the time and method of Williams’ death.”
He also noted that media reports following Williams’ death, including some describing how he hanged himself, might have provided the “capability necessary for a high-risk segment of the US population, middle-aged men in despair, to move from suicidal ideation to attempt.”