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First Papageno Media Award winner announced in Estonia

12.09.2023 | 16:58

On September 10th, Suicide Prevention Day, the Estonian Young Journalists Association (ENAS) and the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs (SOM) awarded the Papageno Media Award for the first time. The main prize was awarded to Gunnar Leheste's story „A call to mother saved the life of tennis player Katriin Saar, who had fallen into a deep abyss.“

According to Brita-Maria Alas, representative of the Estonian Young Journalists Association, it's challenging to write a story that's both readable and interesting while maintaining ethical standards on such a delicate topic. „Gunnar Leheste's story is a perfect example of how responsible and in-depth reporting can be of help and inspiration to many. We congratulate all award recipients and those recognized.“

 Papageno Media Award winner, Gunnar Leheste, wholeheartedly thanks the Estonian Young Journalists Association and the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as all organizations in Estonia working on suicide prevention. „The work in this field doesn't end until the number of suicides in our country has fallen to the minimum, which is zero. As they say, even one suicide a year is too many,“ said Leheste.

 „What's most important to me about this award is that it provides an opportunity to bring attention to nearly a year old interview, which I hope gives people knowledge and hope that mental problems can be overcome by asking for and receiving help. As Katriin's interview suggests, taking that first step is always the hardest, but also the most crucial,“ added Leheste.

 The Papageno Media Award 2023 was won by Gunnar Leheste with the story „A call to mother saved tennis player Katriin Saar's life.“ The author of the best story will be awarded with a prize of 1000 euros. The second place and an opera gift card was awarded to Kerttu Jänese for the story „Every child is needed alive.“ Merilin Pärli’s „The girl who came back“ and Erik Tikan’s and Mari Mets' video story „On the edge. Living with a diagnosis“ were also recognized for their contribution to suicide prevention.

 The Estonian Minister of Health, Riina Sikkut, mentioned that mental health is the most significant asset of our society, requiring attention and care. „The work of Gunnar Leheste and other journalists shows the power of words in saving lives. We all must do our best to ensure no Estonian ever feels hopeless and alone. At the same time, it's essential to note that while we expect responsible reporting from the media, we respect and recognize their independence. Collaboration doesn't mean interference, but working for the well-being of people,“ Sikkut remarked.

 The stories were judged by a committee consisting of field experts, journalists, and people closely associated with the suicide topic, selecting stories supporting the internationally recognized Papageno effect.

The Papageno Media Award was established to recognize journalists who have contributed to suicide prevention and the spread of the Papageno effect in the Estonian media landscape. The award name comes from Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute," where the protagonist, Papageno, contemplating taking his own life, eventually finds help and support, reminding everyone that there's always hope and opportunities in life. Read more about the Papageno Media Award in Estonia, evaluation criteria, and responsible reporting on suicide HERE.

What is the Papageno effect?

In Mozart's opera "The Magic Flute," the protagonist Papageno contemplates taking his own life because he fears he has lost his beloved. However, before Papageno acts on his intention, three spirits appear, reminding him of his magical chimes and helping him find his beloved Papagena again. These three spirits show him that there are other ways to cope with mental and emotional suffering besides taking one's own life.

Inspired by the story of the main character in "The Magic Flute," the Papageno effect is named after him and is an important tendency in the field of suicide prevention. Studies have found that sharing stories of people who have found alternative positive solutions to crises instead of taking their own lives has a positive impact on others, particularly those going through difficult situations. These stories offer hope and prove that no matter how difficult the circumstances may be, help is always available. This is what is known as the Papageno effect.


Help is available for those struggling with suicidal thoughts in Estonia:

  • Child Helpline: 116111 (24/7)
  • Victim Support Crisis Helpline: 116006 (24/7)
  • Soul Care Helpline: 116123 (10-24)


  • Psychiatric Clinic Emergency Room in Tallinn: 6172 550 (24/7)
  • Psychiatric Clinic Emergency Room in Tartu: 731 8764 (24/7)
  • Psychiatric Department Emergency Room in Pärnu: 516 0379 (24/7)
  • Psychiatric Clinic Emergency Room in Viljandi: 435 4255 (24/7)
  • Emergency Medicine Department in Ahtme: 331 1074 (24/7)
  • Emergency Medicine Department in Narva: 357 1795 (24/7)


Emergency: 112 (24/7)