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BACKGROUND: The death of the Princess of Wales in 1997 was followed by widespread public mourning. Such major events may influence suicidal behaviour. AIMS: To assess the impact of the Princess's death on suicide and deliberate self-harm (DSH). METHOD: Analysis, using Poisson regression, of the number of suicides and open verdicts ('suicides') in England and Wales following the Princess's death compared to the 3 months beforehand, and the equivalent periods in 1992-1996. Similar analysis on DSH presentations to a general hospital. RESULTS: Suicides increased during the month following the Princess's funeral (+17.4%). This was particularly marked in females (+33.7%), especially those aged 25-44 years (+45.1%). Suicides did not fall in the week between the death and the funeral. Presentations for DSH increased significantly during the week following the death (+44.3%), especially in females (+65.1%). Examination of case notes suggested that the influence of the death was largely through amplification of personal losses or exacerbation of existing distress. CONCLUSIONS: The death of a major public figure can influence rates of suicidal behaviour. For DSH, the impact may be immediate, but for suicide it may be delayed.

Type

Journal article

Journal

Br J Psychiatry

Publication Date

11/2000

Volume

177

Pages

463 - 466

Keywords

Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Attitude to Death, Death, Sudden, England, Famous Persons, Female, Humans, Male, Middle Aged, Risk Factors, Self-Injurious Behavior, Sex Factors, Suicide, Suicide, Attempted, Wales