The way that certain aspects of the internet could be influencing people at risk of suicide has come to prominence in recent years, with several widely reported cases of individuals taking their own lives after accessing suicide-related content online.
- Samaritans agrees that certain types of suicide-related material online, such as detailed information about suicide methods, can be potentially dangerous when accessed by vulnerable individuals.
- Encouraging or assisting suicide online is already a criminal offence in the UK and this must be properly enforced; however, an approach based on blocking/banning websites would be problematic and there would a limit to what it could realistically achieve.
- We believe that a more effective approach would be:
- to expand the sources of support to vulnerable people online, and
- to encourage organisations which run highly popular sites to develop responsible practices and to promote sources of support.
- More research is needed in this area as the current evidence base is too limited.