Study Shows That Suicide Rate Increased 10% In Months After Robin Williams’ Death
Researchers at Columbia University recently published a study in the academic journal PLOS One that showed a nearly 10% increase in suicide rates after late actor Robin Williams committed suicide in 2014.
Based on statistical predictions calculated with data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wide-ranging Online Data for Epidemiologic Research, the research team expected nearly 17,000 suicides from August to December of 2014, but instead, the team saw an excess of 1,841 suicide cases.
According to the study, high-profile celebrity suicides increase the average suicide rate by less than one percent, though it varies by celebrity, country and event. Because of the increase, the World Health Organization created media guidelines for reporting such deaths that detail not sensationalizing suicides and making clear means for suicide prevention.
“The extent to which these guidelines were followed after the death of Mr. Williams, however, is questionable, and as such, we examined suicide incidence in the United States by month surrounding the time frame of Mr. Williams’ death,” the study read.
The study also showed a consistent increase in suicides across age and gender demographics. Additionally, there was an increase in the use of method of suicide used by Williams himself.
“Specifically, we observed a 32.3% increase in the number of suffocation suicides in the five months that followed Williams’ death, compared to a 3.1% increase in the number of suicides from all other methods combined … albeit we found a higher than expected number of poisoning suicides and firearm suicides in August and September, respectively,” the study said.
Men faced the highest excess of suicides. The team was not entirely sure that this increase was attributable to Williams’ death, but the time period and method of increased suicides “paralleled the time and method of Williams’ death, and a dramatic increase in news media reports on suicides and Robin Williams during this same period, suggesting a connection between Williams’ death and the subsequent increase in suicide deaths from August to December 2014.”
The study also discussed the impact of print and social media on the increased suicide rate and said that headlines used for articles detailing Williams’ death may not have been in accordance with media guidelines laid out.
The number for the Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.