The Papageno Effect

There has been a long-standing strong research focus internationally on risks associated with suicide reporting, most importantly,regarding contagion effects known as the Werther effect. Until 2010, only little emphasis has been put on protective potentials of specific prevention stories 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 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 by reminding him of his alternatives to dying.

Recent experimental and population-based studies from the Werkstaette provide further support for the Papageno hypothesis, suggesting that both films, online content and newspapers, and artistic portrayals featuring mastery of crises, hope and recovery reduce suicide risk factors in individuals with increased vulnerability to suicide and in the general population.

Seminal Literature (see research section for recent updated references)

  • 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.