BACKGROUND: Following the ongoing concerns about cyber-suicide, we investigate changes between 2007 and 2014 in material likely to be accessed by suicidal individuals searching for methods of suicide.
METHODS: 12 search terms relating to suicide methods were applied to four search engines and the top ten hits from each were categorised and analysed for content. The frequency of each category of site across all searches, using particular search terms and engines, was counted.
RESULTS: Key changes: growth of blogs and discussion forums (from 3% of hits, 2007 to 18.5% of hits, 2014); increase in hits linking to general information sites - especially factual sites that detail and evaluate suicide methods (from 9%, 2007 to 21.7%, 2014). Hits for dedicated suicide sites increased (from 19% to 23%), while formal help sites were less visible (from 13% to 6.5%). Overall, 54% of hits contained information about new high-lethality methods.
LIMITATIONS: We did not search for help sites so cannot assess the balance of suicide promoting versus preventing sites available online. Social media was beyond the scope of this study.
CONCLUSIONS: Working with ISPs and search engines would help optimise support sites. Better site moderation and implementation of suicide reporting guidelines should be encouraged.
- Centre for Surgical Research