When the movie All the Bright Places (2020) (based on Jennifer Niven’s 2015 book of the same name) opened with a young man convincing a young woman to step down from the side of a bridge, effectively halting her suicide attempt, I had hoped that this would be the modern-day Papageno effect storyline that we all have been waiting for, but unfortunately, it was not. Papageno, a character in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, contemplated suicide
when he realized that he had lost his love. Three spirits remind him of alternatives, and he does not die by suicide. The perpetuation of similar storylines is thought to be suicide-protective. While Violet Markey from All the Bright Places was offered the nonsuicidal alternative to dealing with the anniversary of her sister’s death and birthday (engaging in a friendship/romance with classmate Theodore Finch), in the end there is no such alternative for Finch as he deals with complex psychological sequelae from abuse in early childhood.
In a time of mental health care shortages for youth, true Papageno stories in mainstream media would be a breath of fresh air and may even have suicide protective effects for viewers. - Dr. Jane Harness