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Nervenarzt. 2015 May;86(5):557-65. doi: 10.1007/s00115-015-4260-6.

[Between Werther and Papageno effects].

[Article in German]

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Institut für Kommunikationswissenschaft und Medienforschung, Ludwig-Maximilians Universität München, Oettingenstr. 67, 80538, München, Deutschland,


Research on the impact of suicide depictions in the media is traditionally focussed on two possible outcomes: on the one hand, there is ample evidence for additional copycat effects after media coverage of suicides referred to as the Werther effect but on the other hand, suicide rates decrease after appropriate media depictions of suicides referred to as the Papageno effect. It is still uncertain what exactly qualifies studies that only limitedly support an imitative or preventive media effect, i.e. studies with ambiguous findings, as they are often disregarded. The present literature review focuses on equivocal studies (n = 25) on copycat suicides that were systematically analyzed based on theoretically derived criteria. The results of the systematic analysis of all identified studies imply that media effects on suicidality are better understood and discussed as a continuum between the two extremes that were introduced as either a damaging Werther effect or a beneficial Papageno effect. Future studies must clarify what factors contribute to a shift from ambiguous findings to harmful media effects on individual suicidality.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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