Date of Award
Master of Science (MS) in Psychology: Clinical
Previous research has shown that mass-media reports of a suicide death predict an increase in suicide deaths, dubbed the Werther effect (Niederkrotenthaler, et al., 2012). Content intended to protect from suicide contagion in mass-media reports of suicide may reduce the Werther effect, described as the Papageno effect (Niederkrotenthaler, et al., 2010). Werther and Papageno effects have not been investigated for their influence on suicide-attempt rates in the United States. An increase in suicide deaths in the United States followed mass-media reports of Robin Williams’s death by suicide (Fink, Santaella-Tenorio, & Keyes, 2018), lending support for the Werther effect. A significant increase in calls to a national suicide prevention crisis line also followed the reports (Schoenfeld, 2015), supporting a Papageno effect. Suicide attempt rates were not evaluated following the reporting. Interrupted time-series (ITS) analysis evaluated suicide-attempt and death rates in Seattle from daily police-reported suicide incidents from January 11, 2012 to December 10, 2014. The suicide-attempt rate observed in the month following Williams’s death was 48% lower than predicted, while the observed suicide-death rate was 118% higher than predicted. This seems to support both Werther and Papageno effects, which are hypothesized to act in opposition (Niederkrotenthaler, et al., 2010), and may suggest a reconceptualization of the Papageno effect.
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Fountain, T. Joseph, "“Will I follow you into the dark?": Effects of celebrity suicide on suicide-attempt rates" (2018). EWU Masters Thesis Collection. 504.