Many international studies describe a relation between prominent and sensational suicide reporting and subsequent rises in suicide rates – the Werther effect –, especially when involving celebrities, but that relation has never been investigated in Portugal. In this article, we intend to examine whether there were increases in suicides in Portugal in the 3 and 5 months following four national mediatized suicides, including a triple youth suicide and the suicides of two famous entertainment celebrities and a well-known journalist. We used monthly suicide count data for Portugal from the National Institute of Statistics (INE) for the period of January 1990 to December 2020, stratified by sex, method, and age group. We conducted a Poisson regression model to determine if there were changes in suicide mortality in the 3 and 5 months after the selected suicides. We found statistically significant increases in total, male, and same age group suicides after the death of actor Pedro Lima and a rise in total, female, same age group, and poisoning suicides following the death of singer Cândida Branca Flor. However, in the latter case, the rises coincide with a major change in the suicide counting system. No such statistically significant increases in suicides were found in the months following the other two suicide cases, either by method, sex, or age group. Our findings show that the Werther Effect appears to occur in some, but not all, cases of mediatized suicides in Portugal, but these results should be considered amid several contextual factors. They provide an opportunity to alert media professionals to the importance of making suicide reporting in Portugal more responsible.
- Media guidelines