The Werther effect vs the Papageno effect

We see two competing truths in the news media. The Werther effect vs the Papageno effect. Now, we usually think of these ideas as they relate to the scourge of suicide. The Werther effect is the scientific framing for the concept of “copycat” suicides. Werther, named after the Goethe oeuvre The Sorrows of Young Werther, postulates that the more people see suicide in the news, the more people will choose to make that terrible choice.

The Papageno effect, in contrast, states that the more people see alternatives to suicide in the media, the more people see stories of people with suicidal ideation who then choose life, the more people will choose an alternative. It is named after a lovelorn character, Papageno, from the 18th-century opera The Magic Flute; he was considering suicide until other characters showed him a a different path away from the tragedy of self harm. The same goes for abortion. The more we can put forward stories of brave women facing an unexpected pregnancy who encounter friends who listen, encourage, and support, the more women who will choose to save their child. From Juno, to Gilmore Girls, to life-affirming posts on Facebook and Instagram sharing an honest culture of life that acknowledges the challenges, but revels in the joy and shows women there is a path towards motherhood that is inclusive of their hopes and dreams.