Suicide Contagion or Clusters
A suicide cluster is a group of completed suicides or suicide attempts that occur close together in time
and geographical area. It is not necessary for the decedents in a suicide cluster to have had direct
contact with each other. Sometimes knowledge of the first suicide was gained through media exposure.
Suicide clusters appear to occur most frequently in teenagers and young adults.
Suicide contagion is the tendency of one or more person’s suicidal behavior to influence another person to attempt or complete suicide. Suicide clusters are thought to occur through a process of contagion.
CDC Recommendations for a community plan for the prevention and containment of suicide clusters.
A community should review these recommendations and develop its own response plan BEFORE the onset of a suicide cluster.
- The response to the crisis should involve all concerned sectors of the community. It should be coordinated by a coordinating committee, who manages the day-to-day response to the crisis, and a host agency, whose responsibilities would include “housing” the plan, monitoring the incidence of suicide, and calling meetings of the coordinating committee when necessary.
- Relevant community resources should be identified.
- The response plan should be implemented under either of the following two conditions
–When a suicide cluster occurs on the community.
–When one or more deaths from trauma occur in the community, especially among adolescents or young adults. These may potentially influence others to attempt or complete suicide.
- If the response plan is to be implemented, the first step should be to contact and prepare those groups who will play key roles in the first day of the response.
- The response should be conducted in a manner that avoids glorification of the suicide victims and minimizes sensationalism.
- Persons who may be at high risk of suicide should be identified and have at least one screening interview with a trained counselor; these persons should be referred for further counseling or other services as needed.
- A timely flow of accurate, appropriate information should be provided to the media.
- Elements in the environment that might increase the likelihood of further suicides or suicide attempts should be identified and changed.
- Long-term issues suggested by the cluster should be addressed.
Download a copy of the complete Recommendations for a Community Plan for the Prevention and Containment of Suicide Clusters