German union Verdi recently launched a TV-spot which is now being critisized by news magazin DER SPIEGEL. The spot aired on German music televison VIVA shows several teenagers in brutal scenes committing suicide because they didn’t manage to get a job. “With this clip we want to provoke strong reactions”, says Verdi spokesperson  Thorsten Tenbieg. “Drastic situations require drastic maesures”.

If social psychologist Paul Marsden is right the spot may indeed provoke strong reactions among teenagers. In his research thesis “The Werther Effect: Fact or Fantasy”, Marsden argues that mediate suicide can be contagious: “The conclusion (..) is that it may indeed be plausible to understand media representations as possibly influencing suicidality.”

In his thesis Marsden refers to “The Sorrows of Young Werther”.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethes first novel caused an increase in young male suicides during the mid-1770s. Goethe’s tale recounts the desperate plight of Werther, a hero which commits suicide after failing to win the heart of Charlotte, a happily married woman.

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