Internet pathways in suicidality: a review of the evidence

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2011 Oct;8(10):3938-52. doi: 10.3390/ijerph8103938. Epub 2011 Oct 11.

Abstract

The general aim of this study was to review the scientific literature concerning the Internet and suicidality and to examine the different pathways by which suicidal risks and prevention efforts are facilitated through the Internet. An online literature search was conducted using the MEDLINE and Google Scholar databases. The main themes that were investigated included pathological Internet use and suicidality, pro-suicide websites, suicide pacts on the Internet, and suicide prevention via the Internet. Articles were screened based on the titles and abstracts reporting on the themes of interest. Thereafter, articles were selected based on scientific relevance of the study, and included for full text assessment. The results illustrated that specific Internet pathways increased the risk for suicidal behaviours, particularly in adolescents and young people. Several studies found significant correlations between pathological Internet use and suicidal ideation and non-suicidal self-injury. Pro-suicide websites and online suicide pacts were observed as high-risk factors for facilitating suicidal behaviours, particularly among isolated and susceptible individuals. Conversely, the evidence also showed that the Internet could be an effective tool for suicide prevention, especially for socially-isolated and vulnerable individuals, who might otherwise be unreachable. It is this paradox that accentuates the need for further research in this field.

Keywords: Internet use; pathological Internet use; pro-suicide websites; suicide pacts; suicide prevention.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Suicide* / prevention & control
  • Suicide* / psychology