Wally Barr, Maria Leitner
University of Liverpool, Liverpool, United Kingdom
Internet and Suicide. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009, 452 pages.
In this chapter we firstly discuss the international evidence for a direct association between the suicide rate and the way in which suicide is reported in written or televised media accounts. We consider comparisons made between the internet and these other media and the frequent claim that it poses an even greater risk in terms of suicide-contagion. We examine the evidence for this and aim to provide a balanced discussion on the basis of published research findings. Our conclusion is that although the internet is as capable as any other medium of facilitating so-called copycat suicides, some groups of people appear to be considerably more susceptible to this than others. Whilst it may very well be true that young people use the internet more frequently than their older counterparts, this does not automatically mean they are most at risk. At least the evidence for this remains far from conclusive. What’s more, we should remember that the internet can have a decidedly positive influence: it can enable the delivery of treatment and training and can allow vulnerable people an anonymous venue in which they can vent their feelings to those whom they believe can empathise. It is well known that the release of pent-up emotions can lead to a sense of relief, and perhaps this might forestall an act that would put their lives in danger? In any event, control of the internet is hugely problematic and the usual governmental response of regulation and control simply will not work. The fact is, we may have to learn to live with an unfettered internet. We should direct our efforts into conducting research that will provide sound evidence from which we can learn to harness the potential of the internet to the benefit of those at greatest risk.