Venice Syndrome

Anyone, who has never visited Venice, probably will think it's a beautyful and romantic city. They are wrong, because the entire medieval city is crumbling with neglect, smells of decay, and is sinking. Still, it's not a reason to commit suicide. Unlike its inhabitants, you can simply leave the city.
Tourists are apparently choosing the Italian city as a place to commit suicide. They seem to have fallen prey to what Venetian psychologist Diana Stainer calls the Venice syndrome or laguna syndrome[1].

She studied 77 cases of attempted suicide by foreign tourists between 1988 and 1995 and concluded that it was no accident that they opted for 'Death in Venice'. But, she suspects, it's just the tip of an iceberg. A further 10 attempted suicides were not considered in the study and another 16 people killed themselves during the period in question. "This phenomenon is almost certainly underestimated," Stainer said.

"Some of the suicides clearly wanted to make a theatrical gesture, perhaps a plea for help. What better choice than an oneiric city like Venice.

With an average age of 36 and evenly split between the sexes, the subjects generally took drug overdoses or attempted to drown themselves in a canal. One Frenchman cut his wrists in the midst of a crowd of fellow tourists.

Nine German speakers - who are most likely to be exposed to the influence of Thomas Mann - tried to end their days in Venice during Stainer's study, while the footsteps of the ailing Dirk Bogarde were followed by eight Frenchmen and two Britons, Dr Stainer said.

Visitors have always been fascinated by the link between Venice and death. For the art critic John Ruskin even the gondolas looked like "floating tombs". Composer Richard Wagner felt as though he was in a funeral procession for plague victims when he ventured out on one of the distinctive black-painted boats.

"It is a city of ghosts and fantasies, outside time and space, Annibale Crosignani, a psychiatrist, thinks. “That is why sensitive people such as artists can become overwhelmed, passing without pause from life to death. For them, sensitive to the appeal of aesthetics, it is deadly beautiful and beautiful to die in."

[1] Stainer et al: Death in Venice. Does a laguna syndrome exist? in Minerva Psichiatrica – 2001

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