The perceived impact of suicide-related internet use

Article title: The perceived impact of suicide-related internet use: A survey of young Australians who have gone online for suicide-related reasons

From DIGITAL HEALTH

The Internet may pose a risk to some vulnerable individuals but may also provide helpful, valuable support to others.  The aim of this study was to examine the perceived impact of suicide-related Internet use, particularly of websites with potentially harmful attitudes towards suicide (encouraging suicide or discouraging help-seeking) or potentially helpful attitudes towards suicide (discouraging suicide or encouraging help-seeking), the online availability of suicide methods and online suicide communities. The Internet could be a powerful tool for suicide prevention; therefore mental health professionals should be aware of the potential risks and direct more efforts towards online suicide prevention.

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to examine the perceived impact of suicide-related Internet use, particularly of websites with potentially harmful attitudes towards suicide (encouraging suicide or discouraging help-seeking) or potentially helpful attitudes towards suicide (discouraging suicide or encouraging help-seeking), the online availability of suicide methods and online suicide communities The present study used a cross-sectional, anonymous online survey. Participants were 102 Australian citizens and permanent residents recruited from various, non-mental health-related websites, aged 18–24 years, who had gone online for suicide-related reasons within the past 12 months. Overall, there was a significant decrease in participants’ retrospective ratings of their suicidal thoughts and behaviours from before they first went online for suicide-related reasons to the time of the survey. However, characteristics of websites did not significantly predict users’ suicidal thoughts and behaviours. Participants reported both positive and negative online experiences, even for similar forms of suicide-related Internet use (e.g. reading information on suicide methods). The findings suggest that suicide-related Internet use is complex and its impact cannot necessarily be strictly attributed to specific types of websites or online content. The Internet may pose a risk to some vulnerable individuals but may also provide helpful, valuable support to others. Mental health professionals should therefore be aware of these potential risks and direct more efforts towards online suicide prevention.

 

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Article details

The perceived impact of suicide-related internet use: A survey of young Australians who have gone online for suicide-related reasons
Katherine Mok, Anthony F Jorm, Jane Pirkis
DIGITAL HEALTH
DOI: 10.1177/2055207616629862, Feb 2016

     
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