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Saturday, April 5, 2014

20th Anniversary of Kurt Cobain's Suicide; Why did his death not influence others to copycat?

In a Newsweek article by Zach Schonfeld (4.4.2014), the author explores the death of Kurt Cobain (who died on 9th April 1994), the way it was handled in the US media, and why it did not appear to cause copycat deaths, given that such a high profile death of someone much loved by millions of fans could have led to a series of deaths through identification.

The article draws on a very thorough exploration of Cobain's suicide in the Seattle Times by Charles Cross (11.3.2014) also the author of a newly released book: 'Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain'

The intriguing issue is that the suicide rate in the Seattle region actually decreased in the weeks following Cobain’s death. This is against all that we believe about high profile suicide reported in the media, and people have tried to understand the reasons for the disparity. David Jobes examined the aftermath in an article in Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior, (26:3, 260-271) concluding there were several factors behind the decrease: positive aspects of the media coverage, outreach efforts by local crisis centres, and perhaps the suicide method - violent, even to someone at risk.

In our own research study published a year after David Jobes' paper, we hypothesised another element - that Courtney Love had managed the media explosion very well, damning the act of suicide, and noting that Cobain was at the beginning of immense success. Probably all these factors are at work, and provide a lesson for Media and Press coverage. Be careful, don't provide too much detail, don't glorify, provide opportunities for grief and grief work.

Stephen Stack, an eminent US researcher provides a miserable and particularly useless comment: “Neither of these are well-designed investigations,” he argued in an email reported by  Schonfeld. “Jobes’s article was based solely on the Seattle area and had extremely small numbers of suicides to investigate. The other study was done in Australia. We generally find that suicide stories concerning foreign celebrities have little or no impact in other nations.”
What rubbish! Cobain and Nirvana had international influence as a stellar grunge group. It is always so good to be living in Australia and have your work totally dismissed by US researchers.

Well, dear readers, you can make up your own minds... Further to the Newsweek article to mark the 20th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, our paper is offered as a free download. The research examines whether the death of Kurt Cobain had an impact on suicides in Australia? Apparently it did not - which goes against our understanding of the impact of high profile suicide. Reasons for this are examined

Martin, G. & Koo, L., 1997. Celebrity Suicide: Did the death of Kurt Cobain influence young suicide in Australia?  Archives of Suicide Research, 3:3, 187-198.

If you are interested in these issues of influence and copycat, you may also be interested in:
Martin G., 1998.  Media Influence to Suicide; the search for solutions.  Archives of Suicide Research, 4:1,1-12.

Download here: MediaInfluencetoSuicide

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