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The Papageno effect: a type of suicide prevention

The Papageno effect: a type of suicide prevention

March 1, 2021

Probably it is known the fact that the emission in the media of certain types of information facilitated appearing a called effect, increasing the probability of the emission of a behavior. This is visible, for example, in situations such as violence, some crimes or suicide.

However, the opposite phenomenon also occurs: the emission of models of behavior and perspectives of prosocial, positive or hopeful life (as long as they are perceived as realistic and reflective) usually also generate a certain level of imitation that can have a preventive effect of certain behaviors

The latter is what happens in the case of the so-called Papageno effect , which we are going to talk about throughout this article.


  • Related article: "Suicidal thoughts: causes, symptoms and therapy"

Papageno effect: what is it?

The phenomenon called Papageno is called the phenomenon by means of which exposure to behavioral models and examples of people who initially intended to take their own lives but who have finally renounced this idea and overcome crises, anguish or the difficulties that caused them generated in the viewer a preventive effect of suicide .

This also occurs when, although there has not been a suicidal intention, it is perceived that a person who has suffered great life difficulties or traumatic events similar to their own has managed to get ahead and face the situation successfully and in a positive way.


It is about finding a reference, a model that teaches that despite the difficulties alternatives can always be found, something much deeper and understandable when it is perceived that whoever says it has really gone through a situation similar to their own and has managed to overcome it, to Sometimes they can help the spectator to generate their own strategies of improvement or try to replicate the one shown in the media.

Although this phenomenon appears when observing examples of similar situations, the fact that the person who narrates it is credible and inspires confidence, being useful the exposure of cases of people who are referents and with whom the subject feels some type of identification . In this sense it may be useful to expose recognized and beloved characters, idols and icons for the person in question.


However, we must bear in mind that it is also possible that if the person who tells his or her story is a celebrity, it is also possible that the thought exists that there are differences between that person and the spectator subject (for example, economic capacity). it is felt to be more productive the emission of cases with which the subject can have a greater identification.

The name of this effect comes from one of the main characters of The magic Flute of Mozart, a humble man who precisely during the play will try to take his own life but to which three spirits or goblins they will end by persuading him to abandon his attempt , showing you other alternatives and possibilities.

The important role of the media

The fact that the media have great power is something that is widely known, being something that throughout history has been used often to both help society (being a window open to the world around us and helping to propagate values ​​a flexible vision of reality and prosocial) as to obtain some kind of benefit or even to manipulate the population.

And it is not only the fact of showing information, but the way it is done or even the type of information that is issued, which can influence both directly and indirectly on our way of thinking .

In the case of the Papageno effect, it is essential to bear in mind that in order to awaken it, it will not be enough to show only the fact that a person has not committed suicide, but that what really protects and prevents suicide is the fact of showing how the subject has been able to overcome his difficulties. It is essential to focus on the existence of alternatives.

The reverse case: the Werther effect

While the media has a powerful influence in preventing suicide, you must take great care with the type of cases that are issued and how they are issued.

And is that as we commented at the beginning of the article has also been observed that the issuance of cases of consummated suicide (especially in the case of people highly loved by society), can generate a facilitation of suicide in some people. It's about the Werther effect.

It has always been monitored not to present suicide as something positive or as a means or to use sensationalism, and in case of issuing cases of completed suicides to limit the details (avoid the rough, not show images ...), not to blame and not to use a moralistic stance .

Bibliographic references:

  • Herrera, R .; Ures, M.B.and Martínez, J.J. (2015). The treatment of suicide in the Spanish press: Werther effect or Papageno effect? Rev.Asoc.Esp.Neuropsiq., 35 (125). 123-134.
  • Niederkrotenthaler, T., Voracek, M., Herberth, A., Till, B., Strauss, M., Etzersdorfer, E., Eisenwort, B. & Sonneck, G. (2010). Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide: Werther v. Papageno effects. Br J Psychiatry, 197 (3): 234-43.

UQx PSYC1030.1x -6-2-6 The Werther effect (March 2021).


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