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SUICIDE

Self-immolation attempts spark copycat fears

A teenage pupil at a school in western France and a jobless man in Paris deliberately set themselves on fire on Friday, raising fears of a trend of copycat acts after an unemployed man committed suicide by self-immolation earlier this week.

Self-immolation attempts spark copycat fears
Photo: Audrey Love

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."

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SUICIDE

France Telecom’s ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides

France Telecom's former CEO Didier Lombard rejected any responsibility for the suicides of his employees when he faced court, a decade after a wrenching restructuring plan cost thousands of employees their jobs.

France Telecom's ex-boss faces court over string of staff suicides
Union representatives gather outside the trial of ex French Telecom CEO Didier Lombard on May 6th. Photo: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP

Lombard and other former executives are on trial on unprecedented charges of moral harassment that allegedly prompted 35 employees to take their lives in 2008 and 2009.

“The transformations a business has to go through aren't pleasant, that's just the way it is, there's nothing I could have done,” Didier Lombard told a Paris court on Tuesday.

“If I hadn't been there, it would have been the same, if not worse,” he said. “The problem was that we had to get our house in order.”

Now 77, Lombard resigned under a cloud in 2010 after several disparaging remarks including one referring to a “suicide fad” at the former state telecoms giant, since rechristened Orange.

In 2006, he told staff: “I'll get people to leave one way or another, either through the window or the door.”

Relatives of the suicide victims and other plaintiffs accuse Lombard and other officials of instituting systemic psychological pressure to push workers to quit, through forced transfers or demotions.

The restructuring plan involved cutting 22,000 jobs out of 120,000 over a three-year period.

On Tuesday, however, Lombard blamed a “media crisis” for overshadowing the success of his efforts.

“Newspapers said the company was in a terrible state, it wrecked morale,” he said.

“Profound Sadness”

In a letter he read to the court, Lombard also expressed his “sincere and profound sadness that this situation involuntarily contributed to the fragility of some, to the point that they carried out this irreparable act.”

But his remarks angered some former workers attending the trial.

“I can't believe it. It makes me sick,” said Yves Minguy, an IT specialist who suffered severe depression which he said resulted from intense pressure by his supervisors.

“Saving a company means the loss of human lives, and he couldn't do anything about it?” he told AFP after the hearing.

“It's staggering.”

During their investigation, magistrates focused on the cases of 39 employees –19 of whom killed themselves, 12 who tried to, and eight who suffered from acute depression or were signed off sick as a result of it.

Alongside Lombard, also in the dock on the same charge were his former number two Louis-Pierre Wenes and the ex-head of human resources Olivier Barberot.

Four others face charges of complicity in a trial set to be closely followed by businesses, unions and workforce experts.

If convicted, they could face a year behind bars and a 15,000-euro ($16,800) fine. The trial could last until July 12th.

Orange itself could be slapped with a 75,000-euro sanction if found guilty.

The trial marks the first time that representatives from a blue-chip company in France's CAC-40 stock index have gone on trial for moral harassment.

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