(Vienna, 18 February 2019) Benedikt Till, suicide researcher at the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine (Suicide Research & Mental Health Promotion Unit) at the Medical University of Vienna's Center for Public Health was awarded the Rudolf Quatember "Psychological Researcher of the Years 2017/2018" prize at the 7th Specialist Conference of the Expert Committee for Clinical Psychology of Vienna General Hospital and MedUni Vienna.
Benedikt Till received the award for his study "Beneficial and harmful effects of educative suicide prevention websites: randomised controlled trial exploring Papageno v. Werther effects", published in the renowned British Journal of Psychiatry.
The "Papageno effect" reduces suicide risk
It has long been known in suicide research that sensational reporting of suicides can incite those who are at risk to imitate them. This is known as the "Werther effect". Conversely, if people use media to talk about their strategies for overcoming suicidal thoughts, this has a beneficial effect, the so-called "Papageno effect". This term was adopted in earlier studies by MedUni Vienna's Center for Public Health from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute". In the opera, believing that he has lost his beloved Papagena, Papageno plans to kill himself but the "three boys" dissuade him from this by showing him what he could do instead of committing suicide.
The central question addressed by this study is: "Do prevention websites of relevant charities have any impact on suicide risk?". In the study, 161 young adults living in Austria were selected and asked either to visit a professional suicide prevention website or a control website. They underwent psychological tests and interviews conducted directly before and directly after reading the websites and one week later.
The result of the study is that suicide risk can, in fact, be reduced by means of these educational websites, particularly among those people who are at higher risk of suicide.
This study was financed by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) (Grant No. P23659-B11; Project Leader: Thomas Niederkrotenthaler).
About Benedikt Till
Benedikt Till is an Associate Professor at the Suicide Research & Mental Health Promotion Unit of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine at MedUni Vienna's Center for Public Health. He completed his doctorate in psychology at the University of Vienna and works in the field of media psychology, health communication, mental health promotion and suicide research. A particular focus of his research work is the role of the media in suicidality and suicide prevention.
Benedikt Till is a founding member and Board member of the Vienna Workshop for Suicide Research, the Austrian platform for interdisciplinary suicide research and prevention. He is also a member of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), including the Suicide & Media Special Interest Group, and a member of the Austrian Society for Suicide Prevention (ÖGS), the International Communication Association (ICA) and the DGS (German Society for Suicide Prevention) working group for studying suicidal behaviour. In addition to this, he is associate editor of the BMC Psychiatry journal, a member of the editorial board of the online journal "Suicidology Online" and a member of the scientific advisory board to the journal "Suizidprophylaxe" (Suicide Prophylaxis).
In 2011, he received the Star Award from the International Academy of Suicide Research (IASR) and the Vienna Workshop for Suicide Research, in which he was involved as part of his research work. In 2010 and 2018 he was awarded the Erwin Ringel Prize by the Austrian Society for Suicide Prevention and, in 2012, the Hans Rost Prize by the German Society for Suicide Prevention. To date, Benedikt Till has published more than a 50 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, most of these on the subject of "media and suicide".
Service: The British Journal of Psychiatry
"Beneficial and harmful effects of educative suicide prevention websites: randomised controlled trial exploring Papageno v. Werther effects". Benedikt Till, Ulrich S. Tran, Martin Voracek and Thomas Niederkrotenthaler. Published in The British Journal of Psychiatry Online first. doi: 10.1192/bjp.bp.115.177394