Media coverage of suicide has been repeatedly shown to influence suicide rates. The Werther Effect (WE) qualifies the propensity of suicide stories to prompt imitative behaviors. By contrast, the Papageno effect (PE) was more recently identified as a way for journalists to contribute to suicide prevention through their productions. Crucially, both WE and PE depend on the quantitative (audience, redundancies, size of articles, etc.) and qualitative (type of story, editorial style, content, etc.) properties of the coverage.
In order to promote the PE and limit the WE, the World Health Organization (WHO) have edited a guideline for media professionals. For instance, journalists are advised to prohibit sensationalism, avoid pictures or details about the suicide method, and show due respect to the bereaved relatives. However, it is now clear that the only chance for these recommendations to be applied is to integrate their diffusion into a more general effort toward collaboration with journalists.
Papageno is a French national suicide prevention program that fully relies on learners to rise awareness about suicide and its coverage. It mainly consists in pair-meetings between psychiatry trainees and journalism students. Such an innovative formula breaks with the old top-down knowledge transmission model in order to foster personalized and sustainable sensitization. It aims at growing up a new generation of journalists who would be more aware of their responsibility concerning suicide and would more spontaneously resort to the WHO guidelines. Ultimately, the Papageno program strives for the creation of a new culture where journalists and psychiatrist would collaborate for a safer media coverage of suicide.
Disclosure of interest
The author has not supplied his declaration of competing interest.