There are websites that encourage anorexia, there are websites that glorify stepping on animals with high heels and killing them, so it is no surprise that there are websites that glorify suicide. There are also websites that can talk people down from the ledge. In a free Internet, they can both be found rather easily.
An upcoming paper looked for information on suicides using popular search engines (Google, Bing) in Austria and the USA and found that protective information is significantly more plentiful than harmful information, about 2:1.
"However the type of website and quality of information found depends greatly on what search terms are used. There is considerably more potentially harmful web content available when method-based search terms are used (such as "how do I hang myself?") and more potentially protective content with help-orientated terms (e.g. "suicide help")," notes Thomas Niederkrotenthaler.
"People at greater risk of suicide probably use method-based terms, which is why it is extremely relevant what appears in the search lists," continues Niederkrotenthaler.
"Websites also appear much earlier in the search list - i.e. they are ranked higher in the search engine results - the more harmful and less positive characteristics they have," adds Benedikt Till. According to the study's authors, this is dangerous for affected individuals because information with harmful content is generally easier to find in search engines than information with a more protective character. The ratio of harmful to protective content is therefore only positive at first glance.
By way of a specific improvement, the study authors recommend that operators of prevention websites improve the rankings of their own websites for searches performed using method-oriented search terms. This can be achieved partly by enabling ads for their website to appear when search terms of this kind are entered, but also by enhancing their own website with suitable meta tags (e.g. suicide methods).
Yes, the authors think search engines still use meta tags.
The integration of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) or a higher number of links leading to the website (e.g. through cooperation with other aid organizations) can help to further improve ranking in the search engines. According to the two researchers, talks are also currently ongoing with Google about ways to rank websites about suicide prevention more effectively. In some countries, Google already allows the pop-up of prevention websites when certain terms are entered. "In Austria, for example, a search for "suicide" returns a link to the crisis intervention centre. These links also need to be used more frequently for other terms," says Till.
The study's significance also lies in the fact that the relevance of the study results goes way beyond the comparison of the USA and Austria. This is because 66.6% of the websites in the Austrian results were from Germany, 2.4% from Switzerland and only 21.2% came from Austria. In searches using US search engines, 80.6% of the results came from the USA, 5.6% came from the UK, 4.5% from Australia and 2.8% from Canada. This study is therefore a comparison between the English and German-speaking regions.
Citation: "Surfing for Suicide Methods and Help: Content Analysis of Websites Retrieved With Search Engines in Austria and the United States." Benedikt Till and Thomas Niederkrotenthaler. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry July 8, 1014, doi:10.4088/JCP.13m08861.
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- Eosinophilic Esophagitis: Genetic Clues Of Severe Food Allergy
- Is Religion A Consolation Worth Having?
- 3X Saturated Fat In The Diet Doesn't Increase It In Blood
- Interstellar Is A Dangerous Fantasy Of US Colonialism
- Extraordinary Claims: Review My Paper For $10
- Stachys Caroliniana: Rare New Species Of Plant Discovered
- "If one is a fan of the FireFly franchise they could take this movie as a sort of rip off of the..."
- "Ha! Like I said, Democrats are a lot better about PR than Republican groups are. Corporations have..."
- "From your response, you seem totally incapable of addressing anything I wrote.Experience has taught..."
- "It is a fact that throughout history much evil has been done for the sake of the believers' godsAnd..."
- "You seem to believe that reality depends or one's viewpoint rather than vice versa.Nope.  ..."
- Suicide risk falls substantially after talk therapy
- The Lancet: Universal health coverage for US militar veterans within reach, but many still lack coverage
- Modified DNA backbone enables success of existing and novel oligonucleotide therapeutics
- Gene in kidney may play role in high blood pressure
- Panel-based genetic diagnostic testing for inherited eye disease proves highly accurate
Books By Writers Here