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The death of the Princess of Wales in 1997 was followed by widespread public mourning. Such major events may influence suicidal behaviour.
To assess the impact of the Princess's death on suicide and deliberate self-harm (DSH).
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.
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.
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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