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Self-immolation attempts spark copycat fears

Published: 15 Feb 2013 14:10 GMT+01:00

A 16-year-old school pupil and an unemployed man attempted to self-immolate in France on Friday two days after a jobless man committed suicide by setting fire to himself to death in Nantes.

Also on Friday a homeless man in the  town of Beaune in Burgundy threatened to set himself on fire in front of a supermarket before emergency services were able to prevent him.

The four incidents have raised concerns further copycat self-immolations could follow.

"This kind of suicide is extremely rare in the West," Professor Jean-Pierre Soubrier, psychiatrist and expert on suicide told TF1. " We need to be careful because with the media attention given to these suicides there is a risk it could be copied by those people who are at rock bottom."

Jean-Pierre Soubrier
Jean-Pierre Soubrier
Jean-Pierre Soubrier
Jean-Pierre Soubrier

Source sur TF1 News : Suicide : le "désespoir économique" est un risque supplémentairepsychiatrist and expert on suicide   and So be careful because there is a risk of contagion and imitation among people who are at the end of the roll with hypermédiatisation these suicides.

The 16-year-old pupil threw flammable liquid over his clothes before setting himself alight in the playground in front of his classmates, French TV TF1 reported.

Luckily, fellow students at the school in La Rochelle were able to douse the flames before he suffered serious burns. Nevertheless he was admitted to hospital as a precaution.

Although it's unclear why the pupil set himself on fire, French press reported that the boy told emergency services he had been influenced by a "recent suicide and self-immolation".

Later on Friday it emerged that a  49-year-old jobless man set himself on fire in Paris.

The man sprayed himself with inflammable liquid and then stepped on some clothes he had set alight in front of his home in the northern district of Saint-Ouen, the local municipal office said.

But passers-by called emergency services and the man was taken to hospital with first- and second-degree burns.

A local official reported the man had linked his suicide attempt to the fact that he was taken off unemployment benefits but added that he also had "personal and family problems."

Friday's shocking events come two days after The Local reported the case of an unemployed man in the western city of Nantes who burned himself to death in front of a job centre, because he had been refused access to benefits.

It was the second time a jobless man had killed himself by self-immolation in France in recent months.

Earlier this week the story of a 13-year-old French pupil who killed himself after being mocked in school also dominated headlines across the country.

Psychologist Emmanuelle Legrin believes it is possible other vulnerable individuals, children included, could copy the same method.

"It's true that we hear a lot about this in the media at the moment and it is possible others will try to the same. But to self-immolate is a very violent act; it is different to trying to take your own life with a gun," she told The Local.

"Perhaps it is because it is so violent and shocking and grabs the attention of the media that explains why the victims do it. They think the emergency services and doctors are more likely to react and will answer their call for help."

The Local also reported earlier this month how the historic Roman amphitheatre in the southern French city of Nîmes banned individual visitors after a spate of copycat suicides. In the last two months five people had entered the ancient arena and thrown themselves from the 27 metre high walls.

Legrin added: "Children are easily influenced and can react to things, just like they do to video games, but fortunately it's rare. These are not spontaneous decisions, the individuals who carry out these acts are already vulnerable and in a fragile psychological state."

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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