Title

Expectations of Contagion Following Suicide: Does Surrounding Information Make a Difference?

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

12-1-1999

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Does suicide portrayed as a deviant act by a mentally disturbed person engender less expectation of suicidal contagion than suicide portrayed as a positive act by a healthy person! In this study, 201 undergraduates read one of eight brief vignettes about a 16-year-old ("Pat") then answered contagion and attitude scales. A 2 (Psychiatric History: Yes/No) x 2 (Behavior: Seeking Therapy/Suicide) x 2 (Reaction: Positive/Negative) MANOVA yielded significant main effects for behavior (Suicide viewed more negatively than therapy) and reaction (Suicide following a negative reaction viewed somewhat more negatively than suicide following a positive reaction), and a significant history by behavior interaction. When Pat had a mental illness history and sought therapy, Pat's action was rated as more necessary than when Pat had no mental illness history and sought therapy. When Pat had a mental illness history and committed suicide, Pat's act was rated as less immature than when Pat had no mental illness history and committed suicide. Respondents rated others as more likely than themselves to imitate suicide, but less likely to imitate seeking therapy. Students apparently are sure they are invulnerable to suicidal contagion, but are neutral about others, regardless of surrounding circumstances.

Publication Title

Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology

Volume

18

Issue

4

First Page

436

Last Page

449