How Preventing One Suicide Can Save Many Lives

Professor of Sociology, Applied Economics, and Population Health Sciences
November 15, 2017

Much of the research on suicide prevention focuses on individual risk factors—but what about suicide as a social contagion? Professor Jason Fletcher and colleagues decided to examine the social processes related to suicide and found that it spreads through families, and spills over into classrooms—and, most intriguingly, that it moves along gender lines. This seems like terrible news, but discovering this mechanism actually has policy implications for suicide prevention: "Successful suicide prevention programs have this potential for spilling over on people who aren’t treated themselves or who aren’t intervened on themselves," Fletcher says. Preventing one suicide in a family can reduce the likelihood of an attempt for an adolescent within that family, but also for the adolescent’s classmates—that's a pretty astonishing finding. If you are in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741, and to find support for yourself or a loved on, reach out to someone at The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention . This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope Optimism.