Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Suicide and the internet

Study misses internet’s greater collection of support websites

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 24 April 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:905
  1. John M Grohol, publisher
  1., Newburyport, MA 01950, USA
  1. grohol{at}

I’m unsure why Biddle et al’s study of suicide and the internet focused on methods of suicide rather than on support, treatment, interventions, crisis hotlines, or information on how to stop or prevent suicide.1 Suicidal behaviour encompasses all of this and much more.

By stacking the deck with the keywords and search phrases chosen, the researchers found a plethora of websites and information resources on methods of suicide. Their results would probably have been very different had they taken a less biased approach and typed in queries such as “suicide support group”, “suicide help”, “suicide crisis”, or “suicide prevention”. When I did a search using “suicide” (the keyword used by most people), the top 10 sites contained no pro-suicide websites.

The researchers made a conscious decision to focus on suicide methods and, as would be expected, found many websites with such information. Even an informational resource might briefly mention such methods to inform and describe what the act of suicide encompasses (but this would not make such a resource a pro-suicide site).

We host one of the most popular suicide pages on the internet ( and are saddened when research emphasises the negative aspects of the internet over the positive ones. Every week we receive emails from people who have chosen not to take their lives because of reading one of our websites. The study was designed to emphasise the negative aspects and did not mention that support websites greatly outnumber pro-suicide websites.

The study paints a pessimistic, biased, and bleak picture of the internet and the suicide resources it offers. Although this picture may be true for a small subset of suicidal keywords and search phrases, it is not an accurate portrayal of the internet’s greater collection of suicidal resources, organisations, and support websites.


  • Competing interests: None declared.