Since the beginning of times, there is plenty of evidence of extraterrestrial existence among us ordinary human beings (STONEHENGE, 3100 a.C.; DJOSER, 2630 a.C.; PASCUA, 700). Their marks on planet Earth are part of our race’s biggest wonders and even after centuries of research and studies about them they are still a mystery to our race. One would claim that this evidence is nothing but lies and hoaxes, however this is precisely the idea that the government is trying to pass us so we would not panic or seek for more information and subsequently try to make contact. In fact, what the government wants is to have all the acquired knowledge for themselves (MISCELLANEOUS, 1999). It is known by previous research (ASIMOV, 1960; SPIELBERG, 1967; CLARKE, 1970; ADAMS, 1979) that alien technology is superior to ours in every degree, what could lead to the evolution of our species in case of any sort of contact with extraterrestrial races.
The Papageno Effect and the positive impact of suicidal contents in media: the case of "13 Reasons Why"
link for the word version
Much has been said about the negative impact of suicidal contents in media, that is, the power it has on initiating a wave of copycat behaviours in society, also known as the Werther Effect-1 (DURKHEIM, 1897; PHILLIPS, 1974; WASSERMAN, 1984; PIRKIS et al., 2006). Whether it is through newspaper articles reporting a famous person’s death by suicide or through a TV show narrated by a girl who killed herself, one might claim that the approach that has been used to talk about this subject is entirely erroneous. That is, the fashion in which the message is delivered is the one responsible for commencing the copycat deaths.
As a matter of fact, in order to prevent this type of phenomenon by controlling, for instance, the language used in reports, the World Health Organization (WHO) has developed a guide especially for media professionals (WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, 2000). The manual contains a series of directives on how to and how not to proceed when enunciating suicide materials. Even though its methods have not been properly tested yet (PIRKIS et al., 2006), there is a consensus among mental health professionals that this guide incorporates the best approach of the issue. Despite that, many outlets have flagrantly disrespected WHO’s guide when announcing suicidal contents, either fictional and nonfictional cases.
One example of this disobedience is Netflix’s TV show “13 Reasons Why”-2. To put it simply, the series ignored the majority of WHO’s directives, showing the entire suicide scene inclusively along with the proper way of using the chosen method. Considering the echoes publicized suicides produce on society, one would naturally assume that “13 Reasons Why” caused the Werther Effect with its careless approach of the subject. However, according to Brazil’s suicide prevention entity, Centro de Valorização da Vida (Center for the Appreciation of Life), there was actually a 445% increase in the number of received emails seeking for help, thus raising the possibility that the show caused a positive effect (i.e. discouraging suicide), also known as the Papageno Effect (NIEDERKROTENTHALER et al., 2010)-3.
While there is an abundance of opinion around the program "13 Reasons Why", there has been very little empirical research (in part owing to its recentness) into the extent to which the show has been harmful or beneficial in terms of its effect on suicidal behavior. Therefore, this project aims to analyse the show’s effect on its audience, determining whether they might be called the Werther or the Papageno Effect.
Considering that “13 Reasons Why” has been released very recently, the impacts of its repercussion has not been properly studied yet. Thus, this project intends to analyse its impacts on society and verify whether it prompted purely a series of copycat behaviours, a decline in cases of suicide or even both.
Subsequently, this project’s intentions is to use the program “13 Reasons Why” as an example of how to and how not to reveal suicide contents to the public in general. Media related agencies and professionals must constantly seek to improve their manners of dealing with perilous topics such as suicide in order to avoid harmful impacts on society. Thus, this project could contribute to this improvement.
The research question that will guide this project is: to what extent “13 Reasons Why” can be the Werther or the Papageno Effect?
1- After the release of Goethe’s novel “The Sorrows of Young Whether”, in which the main character takes his own life, there was a wave of suicides all over Europe, forcing authorities to prohibit the book in several countries. This upsurge in suicide rates right after the announcement of a suicide was called the Werther Effect.
2- The TV show tells the story of a 16 year old girl who kills herself and leaves 13 recorded messages on cassette tapes explaining the reasons why she took her own life.
3- Based on Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute”, in which the character Papageno is persuaded to abandon the suicidal behaviour and continue living, the positive impact of media on suicide is called the Papageno Effect, which is due to the preventive influence of certain media approaches on suicide contents.
DURKHEIM, E. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. 1897.
PHILLIPS, David P. The Influence of Suggestion on Suicide: Substantive and Theoretical Implications of the Werther Effect. American Sociological Review, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Jun., 1974), pp. 340-354.
WASSERMAN, I. M. Imitation and suicide: a reexamination of the Werther Effect. American Sociological Review, v. 49, n. 3, p. 427–436, 1984.
PIRKIS, J. Et al. The relationship between media reporting of suicide and actual suicide in Australia. Social Science and Medicine, v. 62, n. 11, p. 2874-2886, 2006
WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION. Preventing suicide: a resource for media professionals. 2000.
PIRKIS, J. Et al. Media guidelines on the reporting of suicide. Crisis, v. 27, n. 2, p. 82–87, mar. 2006.
NIEDERKROTENTHALER, T. et al. Role of media reports in completed and prevented suicide: Werther v. Papageno effects. The British Journal of, 2010.
Many are the reasons that might lead one to commit suicide, including mental illnesses, severe unhappiness and ending suffering. These are motives internal to each specific individual and that affect only themselves. There is, however, an observed phenomenon that not only affects one particular person, but also influences others to act equal or analogously – the Werther Effect.
Named after Goethe’s famous work, “The Sorrows of the Young Werther”, in which a jilted young man decides to end his life, the Werther Effect is associated to an upsurge in suicide rates right after the public announcement of an influential or well-known person’s suicide. This connection to the book is due to the various copycat attempts and actual occurrences that unfolded subsequently to its release in 1774, prompting the book’s banishment from various places in Europe. The effect, therefore, would be the consequence of a suggestion, that is, a kind of instigation, made by a precedent case, even if unconsciously. However, there are controversies over this matter, whether suggestions are, indeed, important influences or not.
On the one hand, Émile Durkheim (1897, cited in PHILLIPS, 1974:350), explained in his book entitled “Suicide: A Study in Sociology”, that suggestions in relation to suicide are not important for three motives. First, suggestion has an influence only on the deceased’s nigh environs, not extending to larger proportions. Second, for those who were significantly stroke by suggestion, it was only a trigger, for they would have done it anyway. Third, even in the deceased’s surroundings the effect would be small, only a few people would be disturbed to the level of imitating the act.
On the other hand, David P. Phillips (1974) used collected data to prove that publicized suicides could have a consequential increase in the suicide rates both in the month of occurrence and in the following one. To illustrate, Marilyn Monroe’s death in August of 1962 resulted in 363 excess suicides in the United States and England, overcoming the expected number for the two countries in both August and September. Contradicting Durkheim’s second reason, Phillips argued that if the people triggered by suggestions would have committed suicide with or without the influence, they would have done it months or perhaps years later, for the number of suicides after these peaks of increase was kept in the estimated rate in the following months, thus proving that it was not a mere coincidence. Furthermore, Phillips declares that it is possible that the publicized stories precipitated and also created suicides. As for the third reason appointed by Durkheim, Monroe’s death is a proof that suggestion indeed happens in a large scale – in fact, in can happen in an international measure.
Another possible explanation for the development of the Werther Effect is bereavement. The “suicide rate of bereaved persons is higher than expected soon after their bereavement”. In other words, people in grief are more susceptible to taking their own lives right after the beloved one’s suicide. This scenario is possible both in the bosom of close relatives (friends and family) and in relation to an esteemed personality.
Therefore, the existence of the Werther Effect was confirmed, expanding to higher proportions in case of a beloved or well-respected celebrity. The problem is: if such events already had a great influence in the last century’s minds, what about contemporary people, with globalization at their side with a myriad of information in the distance of a click? Besides, a study developed by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that the suicide rate has enormously increased in between 1999 and 2014. Are people now more susceptible to suggestions than before? Moreover, are there now more suggestions than before?
This subject has been worrying mental health specialists, school counselors and parents since Netflix released the TV series “13 Reasons Why” in March 31st. The show narrates the story of Hannah Baker, a 16 year old teenage girl who kills herself and leaves 13 recorded messages on cassette tapes explaining the reasons why she took her own life. Besides the main character blaming 12 different classmates for her death (which could inspire suicidal people to imitate), what worries the authorities is that the show contains explicit scenes of rape and, even worse, it displays in every detail the protagonist’s suicide.
Psychologists fear that, as in “The Sorrows of the Young Werther”, “13 Reasons Why” might initiate a new wave of copycat suicides. Many adolescents who suffer bullying at school or at any other places might identify with the sorrows of young Hannah and feel that imitating her actions is the only way out of their misery. The show would pose as a suggestion and those who already are vulnerable and experiencing suicidal thoughts would feel motivated to echo Hannah’s procedures.
Nevertheless, there is not only one reason that might instigate a person to commit suicide, thus the television program itself could not be the cause of one’s death. Following Durkheim’s theory, the people who feel prompted to imitate the protagonist already had suicidal behavior and would have done it eventually. Hence, the TV series simply advanced the idea.
Whereas some opinions abominate “13 Reasons Why”, others claim that the show is important for it teaches one to understand and to identify the symptoms that might lead a person to commit suicide. What is more, it instructs people how cultivating social relationships, sharing one’s sorrows and being supportive are of a great relevance when it comes to saving lives.
In Brazil, there has been an increase of 445% in the number of emails sent to the national suicide’s prevention entity CVV, Centro de Valorização da Vida (Life’s Appreciation Center), after the debut of Netflix’s show. Most of those who seek for help are young people that identify with Hannah Baker’s suffering and approaching them through the character’s perspective allows them to get it off of their chests more comfortably.
Phillips includes in his article that “anomic persons are susceptible to solutions to their anomie” (p. 351). In other words, people who no longer find a meaning in life (or are going through a very difficult phase) are open to options that will remove this horrible sensation that they are feeling. As alternatives to ending one’s life, there are several opportunities for someone to start feeling complete again. For instance, there are many support groups from many different areas (religious, political, Alcoholic Anonymous, etc.) that are more than willing to help those who seek them. In addition, every country has its own suicide hotline available 24 hours a day.
Finally, as Phillips said, “the more publicity given to an alternative to suicide, the more the suicide rate should decrease” (p. 352). Organizing anti-suicide campaigns and spreading the word about how and where to get help is a very helpful opportunity in preventing suicides. What is more, it might also minimize the repercussions of the Werther Effect.
PHILLIPS, David P. The Influence of Suggestion on Suicide: Substantive and Theoretical Implications of the Werther Effect. American Sociological Review, Vol. 39, No. 3 (Jun., 1974), pp. 340-354. Retrieved from: https://www.jstor.org/stable/2094294?seq=14#page_scan_tab_contents
DURKHEIM, E. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. Taylor & Francis e-Library, 2005. Retrieved from: http://18.104.22.168:8080/jspui/bitstream/1/1969/1/Durkheim,%20Emile%20-%20Suicide%20A%20Study%20in%20Sociology%202005.pdf
Over the years, various positive phenomena have increased in quality, number and frequency, such as the internet, globalization and life expectancy. However, along with it there has also been an upsurge concerning negative matters, i.g. stressful lives, depression and deaths by suicide. A study developed by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that the suicide rate has enormously increased in between 1999 and 2014. To illustrate, there was a daunting triplication of this fatality among women aged 10-14. As this subject is something that must not be avoided, here are 4 things you need to know about suicide:
1. Suicide has many faces
There is no stereotype for suicidals. Each person responds differently to every situation and sometimes people that are going through a difficult phase do not demonstrate it to the others. Moreover, even though most suicide cases are people with mental illnesses, everyone is susceptible to it. It can happen to any gender, race and age. We need to be aware of the signs that might demonstrate whether or not someone is thinking about ending his or her life.
2. If someone talks about committing suicide, take it seriously
As opposed to what some people think, talking about ending one’s own life is not “just to get attention”. However, most of those who do it are actually asking for help and trying to reconsider it. In fact, all they want is put an end to their suffering and, for them, there seems to be no other way rather than ending life permanently. Sometimes a frustrated attempt is all the person’s family or close ones needed to be aware of what was happening, of how grave the situation was.
3. Don’t judge - hug
If people with suicidal thoughts are ridiculed instead of listened to, the probabilities of continuing with their plans are very, very high. For every suicide, there is an estimated 25 attempts and these reported numbers are probably on the low side since not everyone that has been through these circumstances is willing to share it. Sometimes, listening and hugging (and not at all judging) can save a life.
4. Talking about suicide is not a bad idea
It will not stimulate either thoughts or actions - quite the contrary, actually. Asking directly if someone is considering suicide is giving them a chance to get it off of their chests. As previously said, they want to end their suffering, not their lives, thus sharing these feelings is reaching out for help. Once someone else has heard about their pain, aid will be on its way.
Knowledge is everything. Spreading awareness and instructing people can change the way society thinks and talks about suicide. It is necessary for us to stop judging people that need help and start reaching out to them. If you think there is someone near you in need of help, do not let your doubts, criticism and prejudice stop you from helping - even a smile can save a life.
Whereas some people argue that money cannot bring happiness, only materialistic goods and momentaneous feelings, others claim that it does. There are certain hobbies and dreams that can only be accomplished with financial aid. Traveling, for instance, has become one of the major goals of young people nowadays, and it is impossible to travel around the world without having money – one does not simply hitchhike on an airplane.
As once shown in a Lexus advertisement: “whoever said money can’t buy happiness isn’t spending it right”. Money is not only about purchasing a new car or home appliances, but also about investing in your own personal inclinations and preferences. Learning how to play an instrument, how to speak a foreign language, having yoga classes or simply going out for Japanese food - all require monetary resources. These are examples of small details that are boosts to self-esteem and self-improvement. Most importantly, these are experiences, whether momentary or long-lasting memories, enormously important for conducting a happy life.
In today’s world, it is impossible to live without money (unless you decide to live secluded in the wilderness). Clothes, books, food and education - they all require money. According to Sarah Gervais, an associate professor at Nebraska’s University, “Having a higher income, for example, can give us access to homes in safer neighborhoods, better health care and nutrition, fulfilling work, and more leisure time.” Nonetheless, if, in order to achieve such standards, duties just as more working hours are demanded, leading to a stressful routine, money brings more headaches than relief. It is all a matter of equilibrium - finding a balance between basic needs, luxury and leisure.
Certainly it is not exactly money that will bring happiness, but the experiences it will provide. Traveling with loved ones, having a special dinner or celebrating birthdays: money is nothing but a means of reaching your aims and desires. However, without it most would not be possible in the first place.
GERVAIS, Sarah. Can Money Buy Happiness? Three Psychological Principles to Consider Before You Make Your Next Purchase. Available at: http://psychology.unl.edu/can-money-buy-happiness Access on: 04/10/2017
LYUBOMIRSKY, Sonja. Can Money Buy Happiness? 2010. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-money-buy-happiness/ Access on: 04/10/2017