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A suicide pact describes the suicides of two or more individuals in an agreed-upon plan. The plan may be to die together, or separately and closely timed. Suicide pacts are important concepts in the study of suicide, and have occurred throughout history, as well as in fiction.
Suicide pacts are generally distinct from mass suicide. The latter refers to incidents in which a larger number of people kill themselves together for the same ideological reason, often within a religious, political, military, and/or paramilitary context. Suicide pacts, on the other hand, usually involve small groups of people (such as married or romantic partners, family members, or friends) whose motivations are intensely personal and individual. To date, the largest known number of people to die in a single group suicide pact is seven. 
A suicide pact negotiated over the internet, often between complete strangers, is an Internet suicide.
New group-suicide method: Charcoal[edit | edit source]
- Main article: Charcoal-burning suicide
Another focus of the media reports on group suicide pacts is a new and unique method of suicide that is being utilized in Japan (and gradually spreading elsewhere), one that is particularly popular among those committing group suicide—carbon monoxide poisoning achieved by burning charcoal briquettes (or fossil fuels) in barbeque grills or stoves within an enclosed area, such as a small sealed room, tent, or car. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare reports that "group suicide through gas inhalation increased in 2003, with 3,538 people involved, up by 2,024 from 2002."  Many Japanese media outlets report on suicides by charcoal-produced carbon-monoxide poisoning, referring to it as a “new method of suicide." A 2001 psychiatric article  reports that suicides via charcoal-produced carbon-monoxide poisoning were “unheard of in Hong Kong” before the first case in that country was sensationalized by the media in 1998. The victim in that case “reportedly learned of the method from a Chinese film.” The article reports that suicide-by-charcoal cases in Hong Kong have risen dramatically and steadily since 1998, and concludes that, due to intense media coverage of such cases, a “copycat effect” is a contributing factor. In the Billy Talent video "Nothing To Lose", a teen commits suicide by piping the carbon monoxide from the exhaust into the interior.
Recent cases of internet-related suicide-by-charcoal pacts that have occurred outside of Japan — such as the February 2005 suicide of two young people in the United Kingdom, reported by the media as the UK’s "first online suicide pact"  — have been directly influenced by media reports of similar incidents occurring in Japan.
Notes[edit | edit source]
- "Japan Suicide". January 31, 2005. Japan Mental Health. Accessed 30 January 2007.
- "Carbon Monoxide Poisoning as a New Method of Suicide in Hong Kong". Wai Sau D. Chung and Chi Ming Leung. Psychiatric Services, 52:836–837, June 2001. Accessed 30 January 2007.
- "UK records first online suicide pact". The Age. September 30, 2005. theage.com.au. Accessed 30 January 2007.
References[edit | edit source]
- “Nine die in Japan suicide pacts”, BBC News, October 12, 2004
- “Japan suicide reports”, Japan Mental Health, January 31, 2005
- “Carbon Monoxide Poisoning as a New Method of Suicide in Hong Kong” Wai Sau D. Chung et al., Journal of the American Psychiatric Association, June 2001
- “UK records first online suicide pact”, The Age, September 30, 2005
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