Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is suicide sticky?

Figures show the suicide rate among 11-17s in Wales, although small, is five times higher than in England.

In Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, he describes a runaway suicide craze in Micronesia. Gladwell writes that before the 1960's suicide was unknown in Micronesia, and after the first suicide, it caught on quickly so that by the 1980's Micronesia had the highest per capita suicide rate in the world. Suicide was hot.

Exactly how hot? Well the USA has a rate of 22 per 100 000. Micronesia's rose to 160 per 100 000. Gladwell says that teens would commit suicide if they saw their girlfriends with other boys.
"On seventeen year old boy hanged himself after being rebuked by his older brother for making too much noise." - writes Gladwell.

Even more shocking is the ideation of suicide. Kids start to want to 'try' hanging to 'see how it feels'. There's excitement and daring involved. Gladwell calls it a contagious epidemic of self-destruction, engaged by youth in the spirit of experimentation, imitation and becomes an important form of self-expression.

South Africa has their own brand of suicide crazy youngsters. They're called train surfers. Check it out:
Train surfer buried
'Disturbing' child suicide rate
While Micronesia took the suicide world by storm once upon a time, the Japanese are consistent performers. Anything from bankruptcy to failing one's exams is grounds for jumping in front of a bus.
One Japanese suicide every 15 minutes
But the leading contempers today are indians girls.
Indian teens have world's highest suicide rate

The average suicide rate for young women aged between 15 to 19 living around Vellore in Tamil Nadu was 148 per 100,000. This compares to just 2.1 suicides per 100,000 in the same group in the UK.

The global suicide rate stands at 14.5 deaths per 100,000, with suicide the fourth leading cause of death in the 15 to 19 age group. However, in the Tamil Nadu study, suicide was the number one cause of death among these adolescents.

Notably, young women were much more likely to kill themselves than young men - the reverse of the rest of the world. In Western countries, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women. Hanging was the most common method used, followed by poisoning using insecticide.

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