Internet has recently become an important source of information on suicide. The few studies carried-out on the role of the Internet on suicidal behaviors have highlighted the rapid spreading of websites promoting suicide, their accessibility and the easy access to information on how to commit suicide. The aim of the study is to: a) conduct a search on Italian websites that can be easily made by anyone seeking information on suicide; b) compare the Italian results with those coming out from an analogue study conducted on English websites.
The search has been performed using the following terms: suicide, methods for suicide, committing suicide, effective ways of suicide, how to commit suicide, suicide without pain, fast suicide. These terms have been included in the 5 most popular Italian search engines: Google, Yahoo, Bing, Virgilio and Libero. The first 10 displayed websites have been listed according to 14 categories. In order to identify accessibility, each website was rated with a score from 1 (very low accessibility) to 10 (maximum level of accessibility).
The vast majority of the websites provides information on how to commit suicide and promote or encourage suicide. Only few sites have preventive or deterrence information. The pro-suicide websites appear first in search results and, therefore, they are more accessible.
The results of this study highlight the need to have regulations or filters for websites on suicide. Mental health professionals should ask their patients about attitudes about Internet, particularly those who are depressed, with a high risk of suicide, and adolescents. Physicians should help their patients to identify the supporting sources available on the web, so that the use of the Internet could be useful rather than dangerous.