A suicide pact is an agreed plan between two or more individuals to commit suicide. The plan may be to die together, or separately and closely timed.
Suicide pacts are sometimes contrasted with mass suicides, understood as incidents in which a larger number of people kill themselves together for the same ideological reason, often within a religious, political, military or paramilitary context. "Suicide pact" tends to connote small groups and non-ideological motivations, as do bonding as married or romantic partners, as family members or friends, or even as criminal partners.
In England and Wales, suicide pact is a partial defense, under section 4 of the Homicide Act 1957, which reduces murder to manslaughter. In Northern Ireland, this defense is created by section 14 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1966 (c. 20) (N.I.).
A suicide pact made between individuals who meet on the Internet (and may negotiate it over the internet, or even never meet off-line) is sometimes publicized as an Internet suicide pact.
One of the first internet suicides in Israel occurred in 1997, when Eran Aderet, a 19-year-old soldier, died after expressing his desire to commit suicide online, and received detailed instructions on how to accomplish this with an M16 rifle in his possession. Following this case, in 1999, a new Israeli association, SAHAR, sought to prevent suicide by providing supportive conversations and referrals to relevant resources. In 2005, following an increase in the number of internet suicide cases, the police established a special unit which consists of six policemen and specializes in helping people who confess online to wanting to commit suicide. The unit keeps in contact with forum moderators, who are asked to look out for posts from suicidal users. About 200 cases are detected each year, preventing dozens of suicides.
Although the majority of such internet-related suicide pacts have occurred in Japan (where it takes the name of netto shinjū, ネット心中), similar incidents have also been reported from other countries including China, South Korea, Germany, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Sweden.
The first known Internet-related suicide pact occurred in Japan in October 2000, with a later February 2003 incident, involving a young man and two young women, that "became a landmark incident of Internet suicide pacts in Japan due to heavy media coverage".
Despite the alarmed response of the media, Internet-connected suicide pacts are still relatively rare. Even in Japan, where most of such pacts have occurred, they still represent only 2% of all group suicide-pacts, and less than 0.01% of all suicides combined. However, they have been increasing in the country: 34 deaths from such pacts occurred in 2003; at least 50 are estimated to have occurred in 2004; and 91 deaths occurred in 2005. One notable example would be Hiroshi Maeue, who on March 28, 2007, was sentenced to death by hanging, alleged to have murdered three participants in a suicide pact.
An article published in the British Medical Journal in December 2004, by a Dr Sundararajan Rajagopal, Consultant Psychiatrist from St. Thomas' Hospital in London, highlighted the emergence of the relatively new phenomenon of cybersuicide pacts, addressing it from a psychiatric perspective. Dr Rajagopal commented "The recent suicide pacts in Japan might just be isolated events in a country that has even previously been shown to have the highest rate of suicide pacts. Alternatively, they might herald a new disturbing trend in suicide pacts, with more such incidents, involving strangers meeting over the Internet, becoming increasingly common. If the latter is the case then the epidemiology of suicide pacts is likely to change, with more young people living on their own, who may have committed suicide alone, joining with like-minded suicidal persons to die together".
Contrast to other suicide pactsEdit
An article published by the Canterbury Suicide Project makes some notable comparisons between the nature of "traditional" suicide pacts and more recent Internet-related suicide pacts (or, as described in the article, "cyber-based suicide pacts"). It points out that traditionally suicide pacts * have been extremely rare;
- involve older individuals (50–60 years old) and very few adolescents; and
- tend to be between individuals with family or marriage-type relationships and differing, but complementary, psychiatric pathologies.
On the other hand, the growing number of Internet-related suicide pacts are almost the exact opposite:
- involve young people almost exclusively and
- tend to be between complete strangers or individuals with platonic friendship-type relationships; and
- the common characteristic among them would seem to be clinical depression.
The article also points out that the trend of Internet-related suicide pacts is changing the way that mental-health workers need to deal with depressed and/or suicidal young people, advising that it is "prudent for clinicians to ask routinely if young people have been accessing Internet sites, obtaining suicide information from such sites, and talking in suicide chat rooms".
There is no way for a person who enters into an internet suicide pact to know whether the other person is lying. William Francis Melchert-Dinkel is an example of a person who made multiple internet suicide pacts, in which he falsely promised to hang himself after the other person died by suicide. Melchert-Dinkel was later convicted of criminally assisting or attempting to assist in two suicides by providing detailed information about a suicide method.
- Coby Ben-Simhon (2008-10-02). "The Suicide Hunters". Haaretz. Retrieved 2016-03-17.
- Barak, Azy (March 2007), "Emotional support and suicide prevention through the Internet: A field project report", Computers in Human Behavior, Computers in Human Behavior, 23 (2): 971–984, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2005.08.001
- "היחידה להצלת מתאבדים באינטרנט". 2 October 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via Haaretz.
- "Japan's internet 'suicide clubs'". BBC News. December 7, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- "Japan's chilling Internet suicide pacts". 16 December 2003. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
- Rajagopal, Sundararajan (2 December 2004). "Suicide pacts and the internet". BMJ. 329 (7478): 1298–1299. doi:10.1136/bmj.329.7478.1298. PMID 15576715. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via www.bmj.com.
- Martin, Nicole (September 30, 2005). "Strangers die after suicide pact on internet". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved January 8, 2010.
- "Swedish man dies in live 'cyber suicide' broadcast". The Local. October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 14, 2010.(Page not found)
- "Suicide as Japan's major export" Archived 2014-12-19 at the Wayback Machine., Kayoko Ueno, Revista Espaco Academico, January 2005
- "Japan suicide reports"[permanent dead link] Japan Mental Health, January 31, 2005
- McCurry, Justin (2 March 2005). "Seven die in online suicide pact in Japan". Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via www.theguardian.com.
- "Six dead in Japan 'suicide pact'", BBC, March 10, 2006
- Japanese net suicide pact murderer to hang. The Register, March 28, 2007
- Sundararajan Rajogopal in British Medical Journal
- "Suicide Pacts" Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine., Christchurch School of Medicine, New Zealand, May 2005
- Davey, Monica (2010-05-13). "Online Talk, Suicides and a Thorny Court Case". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-04-15.
- "Judge convicts ex-nurse of assisting suicide". The Associated Press. Sep 9, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
- Yanaka Five-Storied Pagoda Double-Suicide Arson Case
- Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold
- Kumatarō Kido and Yagorō Tani
- The Virgin Suicides
- The Love Suicides at Sonezaki (1978 film)
- Suicide prevention contract, the opposite of a suicide pact.
- "The Constitution is not a suicide pact," a recurring concept in American jurisprudence
- "UK records first online suicide pact", The Age, September 30, 2005