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Effect of death of Diana, Princess of Wales on suicide and deliberate self-harm

  • Keith Hawton (a1), Louise Harriss (a1), Louis Appleby (a2), Edmund Juszczak (a3), Sue Simkin (a1), Ros McDonnell (a2), Tim Amos (a2), Katy Kiernan (a2) and Hilary Parrott (a4)...

Extract

Background

The death of the Princess of Wales in 1997 was followed by widespread public mourning. Such major events may influence suicidal behaviour.

Aims

To assess the impact of the Princess's death on suicide and deliberate self-harm (DSH).

Method

Analysis, using Poisson regression, of the number of suicides and open verdicts (suicides’) in England and Wales following the Princess's death compared to the 3 months beforehand, and the equivalent periods in 1992–1996. Similar analysis on DSH presentations to a general hospital.

Results

Suicides increased during the month following the Princess's funeral (+ 17.4%). This was particularly marked in females (+33.7%), especially those aged 25–44 years (+45.1%). Suicides did not fall in the week between the death and the funeral. Presentations for DSH increased significantly during the week following the death (+44.3%), especially in females (+65.1%). Examination of case notes suggested that the influence of the death was largely through amplification of personal losses or exacerbation of existing distress.

Conclusions

The death of a major public figure can influence rates of suicidal behaviour. For DSH, the impact may be immediate, but for suicide it may be delayed.

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Copyright

Corresponding author

Professor Keith Hawton, Centre for Suicide Research, University Department of Psychiatry, Warneford Hospital, Oxford OX3 7JX. E-mail: keith.hawton@psych.ox.ac.uk

Footnotes

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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes

References

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Appleby, L., Shaw, J., Amos, T., et al (1999) Suicide within 12 months of contact with mental health services: national clinical survey. British Medical Journal, 318, 12351239.
Bandura, A. (1973) Aggression: a Social Learning Analysis. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
Biller, O. A. (1977) Suicide related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, 7, 4044.
Bollen, K. A. & Phillips, D. P. (1982) Imitative suicides: a national study of the effects of television news stories. American Sociological Review, 47, 802809.
Bunch, J. (1972) Recent bereavement in relation to suicide. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 16, 361366.
Durkheim, E. (1897) Le Suicide. English transl. 1951. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.
Hawton, K., Fagg, J., Simkin, S., et al (1997) Trends in deliberate self-harm in Oxford, 1985–1995. Implications for clinical services and the prevention of suicide. British Journal of Psychiatry, 171, 556560.
Kelly, S. & Bunting, J. (1998) Trends in suicide in England and Wales, 1982–96. Population Trends, 92, 2941.
Schmidtke, A. & Schaller, S. (2000) The role of mass media in suicide prevention. In The International Handbook of Suicide and Attempted Suicide (ed. Hawton, K. & Van Heeringen, K.), pp. 675697. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
World Health Organization (1977) Manual of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases, Injuries and Causes of Death (9th revision) (ICD–9). Geneva: WHO.

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Effect of death of Diana, Princess of Wales on suicide and deliberate self-harm

  • Keith Hawton (a1), Louise Harriss (a1), Louis Appleby (a2), Edmund Juszczak (a3), Sue Simkin (a1), Ros McDonnell (a2), Tim Amos (a2), Katy Kiernan (a2) and Hilary Parrott (a4)...
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