Suicide And The Media: The Line Between Werther And Papageno Effect

Repetitive portrayals by media on suicide methods are likely to trigger suicidal behavior. The impact of sensational reporting of suicide may result in a subsequent increase in suicide rates.

The death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput has brought a disturbing trend in the way in which the media has chosen to report suicide.

Repetitive portrayals by media on suicide methods are likely to trigger suicidal behavior.

The impact of sensational reporting of suicide may result in a subsequent increase in suicide rates.

Although there is less evidence about this claim a 12-year-old child allegedly hung himself to death after on June 20 who was said to have been depressed over the actor’s death.

The WHO in its 2014 report on suicide states that the sensitive portrayal of suicide in media is an important suicide prevention strategy.

Media reports on suicides resulting in copycat suicides have also been referred to as the Werther effect based on an alleged ‘suicide-epidemic’ among young men after the publication of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774.

Recent media reporting on the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, emphasize the necessity to reduce stigmatization of suicidal ideation. The need is also to use neutral language for suicide and refrain from stigmatizing or misleading wording such as reflected in phrases like “successful suicide” or “commit” suicide.

Copycat suicides are a phenomenon whereby one suicide or suicidal act within a community, or geographic area increases the likelihood that others will attempt suicide.

However, there certainly is a line the other end of that line is a very important factor called the Papageno effect.

The line between Werther and Papageno can seem thin from far away, but it all boils doing to following some really simple rules, and these rules really can be the difference between life and death

Many people tend to shy away from the discussion of suicide at all in fear of creating the Werther effect.

But many reports on suicide – in the media, self-disclosure, viral posts, etc. – can have a profoundly positive impact and save lives, provided that the reports are done in a responsible manner and the guidelines for responsible reporting really are not hard to follow at all.

Suicide is a public health issue. What should we do? We should talk about it. We should report it.

And we should contribute and encourage the Papageno effect as often as possible. The reality is that the more we talk about mental health and suicide in ways that break down stigma, that promote help, and that normalize an otherwise scary topic, the more likely hurting individuals will receive the help they so desperately need.

Sensationalist repetitive portrayals of suicide that focus on suicide methods and suicidal acts are likely to trigger imitational suicides while stories that highlight how to cope with adverse circumstances are likely to reduce suicidal ideation in some people.

Dr. Samir Parikh, Director, Fortis Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences spoke to HealthWire and explained that mental health is just as important as physical health and when we change the public narrative to hope, connectedness, social support, treatment, and recovery we can transform systems from helplessness to inspiration. Let people know that there is hope in the darkness.

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