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Suicide in 21st century – appropriate response online can save lives

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Posted January 1, 2016

A lot of our lives nowadays are online. Sadly, some people decide to end their lives and tell about it online. Some of these words are perceived as attention seeking by the general public and receive negative reaction or are completely ignored.

Suicide communication online often receives encouraging comments that contribute to its completion. Since majority of people communicate their suicidal thoughts and plans, prevention strategies for online networks have to be developed. Image credit: Esetok via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Suicide communication online often receives encouraging comments that contribute to its completion. Since majority of people communicate their suicidal thoughts and plans, prevention strategies for online networks have to be developed. Image credit: Esetok via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Now scientists from Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet have studied a specific case and say that normal online response could prevent suicide.

Scientists studied a case when a young man wrote about his suicidal thought online. Researchers say that comments he received before the suicide probably contributed to the completion.

Michael Westerlund, one of the authors of the study, said: “A majority of those that completed suicide have communicated this before in some way. In a suicidal process, the most evident sign is that the person tells others about their thoughts or plans”. Because nowadays we live online – whether on social networks or personal blogs – internet is the place where people usually communicate their suicidal tendencies.

Researchers studied the responses, attitudes and believe that were communicated on the Swedish internet forum Flashback before, during and after the suicide. Shockingly, a significant part of comments before the suicide encouraged the young man to do that. Furthermore, many comments expressed excitement. Only about a half of the comments on the website considered suicide a tragic event and did not encourage the person do commit it. Scientists conclude that what should be taken out of this study is the need to raise awareness.

People online should recognize the signs that person is going to commit suicide. Therefore, it is important to increase awareness of suicide signals. People must know how to react properly to individuals who communicate suicide intentions on the internet.

Scientists also say that there is another way to save lives – educating and training of moderators of internet forums, so that they would know the risks of suicide encouraging comments and could react accordingly. Lastly, it is important to raise awareness of clinicians, so that they could monitor websites frequently visited by suicidal people.

Suicide is one of major causes of death worldwide, claiming around 700 thousands of lives every year. Around half of the people who commit suicide communicate their plans directly. If indirect communication is counted, this number raises to 60-80%. This means that suicide can be prevented if right measures are taken, appropriate response online being one of them.

Source: su.se

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