Faculty Articles

Title

Suicide Contagion and Clusters—Part 1: What School Psychologists Should Know

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2019

Publication Title

NASP Communiqué

Volume

47

Issue/No.

5

Abstract

The suicide of a student has a rippling effect in the school environment as well as in the greater community, as a single adolescent death by suicide increases the risk of additional suicides. The process by which a completed suicide (or at times, suicidal behavior) increases the suicidal behavior of others is called contagion. When multiple suicides occur close in time and geographical area, at a rate greater than normally would be expected in a given community, it is considered a cluster (Centers for Disease Control [CDC], 1988).

Adolescents are the most susceptible age group for imitating suicidal behavior; therefore, discussions of contagion often center on prevention efforts in the school environment, necessitating that school psychologists play a central role. Approximately 1–5% of teen suicides occur in a cluster after a youth dies by suicide (Gould & Lake, 2013). Though rare, contagion results in approximately 100–200 seemingly preventable deaths annually.

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