Instructions for Death by Suicide

People searching the Internet for information about suicide are more likely to find sites actually encouraging suicide than those offering help or support.

Professors of psychiatry and epidemiology from several universities in England found that nearly half of websites showing up in queries of the four top search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, and Ask.com) gave “how to” advice on taking one’s own life.  Only 13 per cent focused on suicide prevention or offered support, while another 12 per cent actively discouraged suicide.

According to this study, “Information on methods is not the only way that the Internet can contribute to suicidal behavior.  Contributors to chat rooms may exert peer pressure to commit suicide, idolize those who have completed suicide, and facilitate suicide pacts.  Such discussion may lessen any doubts or fears of people who are uncertain about suicide….[Researchers] observed that people posting notes concerning suicide on the web are often initially ambivalent, but that their resolve strengthens as others encourage them, and backing out or seeking help becomes more difficult.

It may be more fruitful for service providers to provide website optimization strategies to maximize the likelihood that suicidal people access helpful, rather than potentially harmful, sites in time of crisis.”

Frankly, I find it disgusting that these search engines do not vet their sites and allow such a proliferation of sadism; this is taking the concept of freedom of speech to an absurd point.  There needs to be a more humane balance between freedom of expression and public protection.  Currently, the main approaches to reducing the potential harm of suicide sites include self-regulation by Internet service providers and use of filtering software by parents to block sites from susceptible children.

Since 2006, it has been illegal in Australia to use the Internet to promote or provide practical details concerning suicide, and Internet service providers in Japan and Korea have attempted to block specific sites providing similar information.