Guest post: The Werther Effect

Originally a comment by Sastra on YOU become responsible.

I just don’t get it.

One of the things therapists are trained to be aware of is what’s called the “Werther Effect,” named for an 18th century fictional character who killed himself, thereby setting off a rash of nonfictional suicides inspired by the romantic depiction. Suicide is in a sense contagious, and telling vulnerable populations that there’s a good chance they will die by their own hand is verboten. Even portraying victims as somehow noble or beset upon is risky — good intentions can backfire. You wouldn’t want to set up a program in high schools warning teens that the most popular reason for teen suicide is breaking up, for example. It would lead to an increase in teens killing themselves after a breakup. When Netflix put out a series called “13 Reasons Why” they were strongly criticized by people who work with adolescents.

And yet somehow telling and saying and explaining over and over again that TRANS PEOPLE WILL KILL THEMSELVES if they aren’t VALIDATED is just a dandy thing to say, sensitive and caring and valiant. The fact that pretty much everyone from psychologists to the media sets up the expectation in every trans person— particularly the young — somehow isn’t considered a grave lapse of responsibility and good sense. No, it’s now a good idea. And when they trot it out themselves, jump.

Another thing most therapists are taught is that it’s important to help people establish an inner locus of control, the strength and resilience to be able to live life happily without being dependent on what other people say or do. And again, this cardinal principle of psychology is thrown on the floor and danced upon when it comes to transgender. Not “I don’t need the approval of other people, I am sufficient in myself “ but “look what YOU MADE ME DO!!!!”

Seriously, wtf.

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