There has been a long-standing strong research focus internationally on risks associated with suicide reporting, most importantly,regarding contagion effects of reporting ((known as the Werther effect). However, until recently only little emphasis has been put on potentially protective effects of specific reporting contents, which are relevant to both media reporting recommendations and suicide awareness campaigns. Research on associations between content-analytic aspects of suicide reporting in the media and subsequent suicides, conducted by members of the Werkstaette, revealed an indirect association between media reporting on lived experiences of coping with adverse circumstances and subsequent suicides, the so-called Papageno effect. This protective effect has been termed the Papageno effect in honour of the character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute. When Papageno fears that he has lost his love, Papagena, he prepares to kill himself. But three boys save him at the last minute by reminding him of alternatives other than dying.

More research is needed to fully understand the Papageno effect. Recent follow-up studies from the Werkstaette provide further support for the Papageno hypothesis, suggesting that both films and newspapers featuring mastery of crises and educative websites can reduce suicide risk factors in individuals with increased vulnerability to suicide in the general population.

Literature

  • Schikaneder E. The magic flute: libretto. Metropolitan Opera Guild, 1990.
  • Phillips DP. The influence of suggestion on suicide: Substantive and theoretical implications of the Werther effect. Am Soc Rev 1974;39:240-53.
  • Niederkrotenthaler T, Voracek M, Herberth A, et al. Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide–Werther v. Papageno effects. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2010;197:234–243.
  • Till B, Strauss M, Sonneck G, Niederkrotenthaler T. Determining the Effects of Films with Suicidal Content: A Laboratory Experiment. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2015;207(1):72-8.
  • Arendt F, Till B, Niederkrotenthaler T. Effects of suicide awareness material on implicit suicide cognition. Health Communication. 2015 Nov 3:1-9 DOI: 10.1080/10410236.2014.993495
  • Niederkrotenthaler T, Reidenberg DJ, Till B, Gould M. Increasing help-seeking and referralsfor individuals at risk for suicide by decreasing stigma–The role of mass media. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2014;47:S235–43.
  • Niederkrotenthaler T, Arendt F, Till B. Predicting Intentions to Read Suicide Awareness Stories: The Role of Depression and Characteristics of the Suicidal Role Model. Crisis. 2015; 36(6):399–406
  • Till B, Tran U, Niederkrotenthaler T. Impact of Educative Suicide Prevention Websites on Risk Factors for Suicide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. (under review).