Year: 2022 Source: The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry / La Revue Canadienne de Psychiatrie. (2019). 64(11), 805-812. SIEC No: 20220147

Evidence suggests that suicide mortality increases after high-profile suicide deaths. Indeed, suicide in the United States increased disproportionately after the suicide by suffocation of well-known comedian Robin Williams in August 2014. Such increases are often attributed to irresponsible media coverage of the suicide contributing to “copycat suicides.” However, recent research indicates that the mainstream Canadian media have significantly improved their suicide coverage, with high fidelity to suicide reporting guidelines after Williams’ death. As such, the aim of the present study is to examine suicide mortality in Canada after Robin Williams’ suicide.
We obtained deidentified monthly suicide count data from January 1999 to December 2015 stratified by age, sex, and method of suicide from Statistics Canada. We used time-series analyses to estimate the expected number of suicides in the months following Robin Williams’ death. This was done using a seasonal autoregressive integrated moving averages (SARIMA) method. Expected suicides were then compared with observed suicides.
August 2014 was the month with the highest number of suicides from 2010 to 2015. The time-series model indicated a 16% increase in the expected number of suicides during the months from August to December 2014 inclusive. Moreover, males over 30 had the greatest number of excess suicides, and suicides by suffocation (the method used by Robin Williams) were also higher in August and the following months.
Suicides increased in Canada after Robin Williams’ death, despite the improved mainstream media coverage witnessed in other studies. Other factors (e.g., social and alternative media) may have contributed to the observed increase in suicide.