The internet and suicide: A double-edged tool

Eur J Intern Med. 2007 Oct;18(6):453-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ejim.2007.04.009. Epub 2007 Jul 5.


Many physicians are unaware of the power of the internet. In an era of an empowered public and patients, the internet may be a more powerful determinant of health-seeking behaviour than medical opinion. In the same way, it may provide more information for self-harm than was ever available to the public domain in the past. The internet is effective across cultural and geographical boundaries. In addition to reporting and romanticising suicide, it has a significant impact in assisting and promoting suicide. It provides services and information ranging from general information to online orders of prescription drugs or other poisons that bypass government regulations and custom controls. This bridges the gaps of locality and accessibility, which previously formed a natural divide in selecting the means of suicide. In addition to these negative effects, there is a vast potential to harness these properties to a beneficial effect. The wide acceptance of the internet makes it a powerful tool for recognition of the at-risk individual, for preventing suicide and supporting survivors, with chat rooms taking the place of telephone help lines. In an information age, it is vital for physicians to use all available means of informing and empowering the public and patients. The internet also has a role in training, providing accessible self-help sites for suicidal persons and web-based prevention services, all of which remain sadly under-utilised. The challenge to physicians of the 21st century is to harvest the internet in a beneficial manner.

Publication types

  • Editorial