On Suicide Prevention
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The Papageno Effect
This is the effect that mass media can have by presenting non-suicide alternatives to crises. It is named after a lovelorn character, Papageno, from the 18th-century opera The Magic Flute; he was contemplating suicide until other characters showed him a different way to resolve his problems. This phenomenon has a lot of similarities with The Werther Effect. Media Influence If a novel or new content can induce self-harm, then it must be assumed that those narratives might positively affect prevention. There is more research into the damage done by "irresponsible media reports" than into the protective effects of positive stories. Still, when newspapers refuse to publicize suicide events or change how they provide information about suicide events, the risk of copycat suicides declines. In 2018, North-western University interviewed 5,000 adolescents and parents in the US, UK, Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand to explore how they related to 13 Reasons Why, a controversial TV show produced by Netflix. The research suggested that watching the show prompted conversations between teens and parents about bullying, suicide, and mental and physical. Most importantly, the show led adolescents to empathize more with their peers. The study also reported that parents and adolescents were interested in finding more information on suicide prevention. It has been argued that appropriate portrayals of suicide, showing negative or alternative consequences, might have a preventive effect and empower vulnerable audiences in encouraging help-seeking and normalising mental and physical problems. Recent Studies A 2017 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found the online series 13 Reasons Why which chronicled a fictional teen's suicide was associated with an increase in suicide related Internet searches, including a 26% increase in searches for "how to commit suicide", an 18% increase for "commit suicide" and 9% increase for "how to kill yourself." On May 29, 2019, research published in JAMA Psychiatry outlined an association of increased suicides among 10- to 19-year-olds in the United States in the 3 months following the release of 13 Reasons Why, consistent with a media contagion of suicide in the show. However, some media scholar studies proved that viewing 13 Reasons Why was not associated with suicidal ideation but actually with reduced depressive symptoms. A striking example occurred in Vienna, Austria where the media reporting increased dramatically the number of copycat suicides. Reduction began when a working group of the Austrian Association for Suicide Prevention developed media guidelines and initiated discussions with the media which culminated with an agreement to abstain from reporting on cases of suicide. Examples of celebrities whose suicides have triggered suicide clusters include Ruan Lingyu, the Japanese musicians Yukiko Okada and Hide, the South Korean actress Choi Jin-Sil, whose suicide caused suicide rates to rise by 162.3%, and Marilyn Monroe, whose death was followed by an increase of 200 more suicides than average for that August month. Another famous case is the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, an act that was a catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and sparked the Arab Spring, including several men who emulated Bouazizi's act. Media Mirrors The cause-and-effect relationship between media and suicide is not simple to prove. Prof. Sonia Livingstone emphasized the claim of causality in media cannot be considered conclusive because of different methodological approaches and disciplinary perspectives. Even if it is accepted that media can have an effect on suicidal ideation, it is not a sufficient condition to drive people to commit suicide, the effects that media can have on suicidal behavior are certainly less important than individual psychological and social risk factors. However, reporters and media content producers remain accountable for applying ethical guidelines to prevent suicide and help vulnerable people.
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