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SUICIDE CONTAGION

SUICIDE CONTAGION in India and it's ripple effect not only in India but around the world, make waves.

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Over and above the hullabaloo and finger pointing after the “suicide” of Gajendra Singh, political parties, the police, and the media, would do well to remember that suicides rising from despair often become endemic, and get a following. A form of protest itself can become fashionable, like throwing shoes at a person, or ink on his face. Protest and suicide, when combined, form a deadly cocktail.

Farmer suicides have already become endemic in India. I fear, after Gajendra Singh's hugely publicised one, more such copycat suicides can take place in political gatherings, and during other big, televised events. After all, if a farmer has to kill himself, why do it in his field in darkness, why not do it in the full glare of television, your act is elevated to the noble, your family gets its place in the sun, compensation is happily given although suicide is still a crime in India, leaders sing your praises, cowardice and fear become heroism.

Experts tell us that the well-known suicide serves as a model, in the absence of protective factors, for the next suicide. This is referred to as, "suicide contagion". They can infest a community, the school system, an occupation, a profession, or in terms of a celebrity suicide wave, everybody. This is called a "suicide cluster," which I think already exists in many parts of agricultural India.

Also certain subjects, days, monuments, bridges, landmarks, attract suicides like magnets and so do some scripts and narratives. It's also got a name. It's called The Werther Effect, after Goethe's novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther. The Werther Effect occurs, when suicides that get high publicity encourage people to imitate them. A famous case is the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, and becme a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution which sparked the Arab Spring. Several men emulated Bouazizi's act.

In the Soviet Union in the 1990s The Werther Effect took place among police officers. It was also recorded on Indian reservations in America, and on the islands of Micronesia, where people went on a hanging spree in 1975-76. Coming from a community that is already facing a suicide contagion, Gajendra Singh's suicide can start a copycat effect. Be careful, India...

 

Roy Daniels

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