Introduction Robert Enke, an internationally respected German football goal keeper committed railway suicide on the 10 November 2009. Concerns were raised about the potential of this event to spark copycat suicides afterwards. Therefore, we analysed the impact on the frequency of subsequent railway suicides.
Methods The daily incidence of railway suicides was derived from the Event Database Safety (EDS), the national database of person accidents on the German railway net. We compared the daily numbers of suicides from 11 November to 31 December in 2006–2009 and the number of suicides 28 days before and after the event by estimating incidence ratios with 95% CIs using Poisson regression.
Results The mean daily number of suicide acts in the critical time window in 2006 to 2008 was about 2 but almost 4 in 2009. The incidence ratio was 1.81 (95% CI 1.48 to 2.21), thus showing a daily increase after Enke's suicide by 81% compared to the previous years. Comparison of the number of suicides 28 days before and after the incidence revealed similar results. No modifications of these associations were observed by daytime, by location of the suicide and death.
Conclusion The present study indicates that a celebrity suicide may bring about copycat behaviour in an unforeseen amount, even if the reporting in the media seems to be rather sensitive and other preventive measures are taken.
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