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Do Not Fan the Flames of Teen Suicide

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October 24
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Guidelines from Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Canadian Psychiatric Association and WHO

Media has powerful influence on suicide prevention. Austrian authors write in British Medical Journal underscoring the ways to prevent suicide through how media handles the issue. 

‘The Papageno effect’ vs. ‘Werther Effect’ 

Media must follow the Papagano effect: protective effect ‘the Papageno effect’ in honor 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 other alternatives to dying.’

Media sensationalization must stop. The quasi-autobiographical love story ‘The Sorrows of Young Werther’ made the poet Goethe famous. Werther commits suicide after his lover marries another man. The book, when initially published in 1774, provoked a spate of suicides amongst young people, and thereby gave rise to the medical term ‘Werther Effect’ meaning ‘copycat suicide’ or ‘suicide contagion’.

Don’t provide detailed descriptions of methods used

Don’t portray suicide in simplistic way

Don’t sensationalize suicide

Don’t focus on positive qualities of the suicide completer

Don’t Portray suicide as means to an end or potential solution

Do promote identification of young people with mental health needs

Do include info on how/where to seek help

Do portray the multifactorial nature of suicide, including history of mental health issues and complex psychosocial circumstances

Reference: 

Papageno v Werther effect. Niederkrotenthaler, Thomas assistant professor 1; Voracek, Martin associate professor 2; Herberth, Arno postgraduate researcher 1; Till, Benedikt postdoctoral researcher 1; Strauss, Markus research assistant 1; Etzersdorfer, Elmar associate professor 1; Eisenwort, Brigitte associate professor 1; Sonneck, Gernot full professor 1 BMJ. <strong>341</strong>:<strong>c5841</strong>, October 23, 2010. 

[Letters: Media and suicide] 

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