Is suicide “contagious?”  There has long been a theory that exposure to suicide can increase the risk, but, as few studies have explored this possibility, no evidence to back it up—until now.   A recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal confirms this longstanding suspicion: suicides can, in fact, be “contagious” among teens.  Researchers from both the Harvard School of Public Health and the Canadian universities of Ottowa and Alberta surveyed thousands of teenagers about the effects of suicide by someone they knew or went to school with.  The researchers looked at whether exposure to a schoolmate’s suicide within a year had any effect.

The statistics are startling.  Children and teens exposed to the suicide of a schoolmate, even someone they have never met, are significantly impacted by their death.  They are subsequently at greater risk for suicide themselves, as they are shown to not only consider suicide with greater frequency, but to also attempt it with greater frequency.

According to the researchers, interventions after a suicide are often both too narrow—targeted primarily at the dead person’s close friends—and too short (often lasting just a few months when the effects of a suicide last at least two years).  The researchers instead advocate for school-wide interventions, and for interventions that are more than just an immediate “response.”

Any long-term postvention planning necessarily includes proactive measures.  If a school does not already have a suicide prevention program in place, then this is an essential step they must work towards.  The SOS Signs of Suicide® program which Elyssa’s Mission brings into schools not only educates teens about warning signs and what to do if they have concerns about themselves or a friend, but further screens students in order to help school staff identify those at-risk for depression and/or suicidality.  Through this essential screening component, teens affected by a former classmate’s suicide, even one or two years later, can be identified before it is too late. To read the article in full go to:,0,4138066.story
For information on how to bring the SOS program into your school, please contact Elyssa’s Mission, Director of Education, Jodie Segal, at 847-697-9181 or email