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Journal Article

Citation

Mestas M, Arendt F. Health Commun. 2021; ePub(ePub): ePub.

Copyright

(Copyright © 2021, Informa Healthcare)

DOI

10.1080/10410236.2021.1961972

PMID

unavailable

Abstract

Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the Imperial throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, died by suicide in 1889. His death is a prime example of a historical celebrity suicide. Although news coverage about celebrity suicide has been shown to be linked to increases in suicides - a phenomenon known as the Werther effect -, censorship and/or journalists' anticipatory obedience back then may have led to a form of "forced responsible reporting" that may have prevented a Werther effect. A content analysis was conducted, and civil death registers were used to identify suicides before and after Rudolf's suicide. We compared Rudolf's case with another historical celebrity suicide case (Colonel Redl) for which there is already empirical evidence consistent with a Werther effect. As expected, the press heavily reported on Rudolf's death, but did not give undue prominence to suicide and rarely gave details on the method. Importantly, there was no evidence of an increase in suicides. This is in stark contrast to the Redl case in which the press reported irresponsibly. The Rudolf case emphasizes the importance of current media guidelines on responsible reporting. Thus, a high amount of news coverage does not necessarily translate into a Werther effect.


Language: en

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