Glamorize Death, and Copycat Suicides Follow (Commentary, 2015)

[Comment: Two people I know attempted suicide after my daughter Marie died by suicide using an assisted suicide technique she read about. N. Valko RN] Mount Mihara in Japan: the government had to erect a fence to discourage suicide jumpers like Kiyoko Matsumoto. Kiyoko Matsumoto is well represented on the Internet. She died on Feb. 12, 1933, at the tender age of 21, and apparently had lived a rather uneventful life. Her single claim to fame rests on one desperate action. This young student jumped into the volcano of Mount Mihara from an observation point overlooking the molten lava. She left behind a note to her closest friend that read, “Dearest, I am bewildered to distraction by the perplexities of maturing womanhood. I can stand the strain no longer. What shall I do? I should like to jump into a volcano.” The location of her leap, on the island of Izu Oshima, 70 miles south of Tokyo, has been called “The World’s Most Romantic Death Spot.” Kiyoko’s heart-rending suicide note quickly made her a media sensation across Japan, as newspapers turned her into an instant celebrity. As a result, before the year was over, 944 people imitated Kiyoko’s final act, 804 men and 140 women. The Tokyo Bay Steamship company set up daily excursions to what became known as “Suicide Point.” Thousands more made the fatal trip until the 1950s, when it was made a criminal offense to purchase a one-way ticket to the island. Two points are of particular interest here: 1) That it is possible for the media to glamorize suicide; and 2) Such glamorization of death...