Background: Search engines display helpline notices when people query for suicide-related information.
Objective: In this study, we aimed to examine if these notices and other information displayed in response to suicide-related queries are correlated with subsequent searches for suicide prevention rather than harmful information.
Methods: Anonymous suicide-related searches made on Bing and Google in the United States, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in a span of 10 months were extracted. Descriptive analyses and regression models were fit to the data to assess the correlation with observed behaviors.
Results: Display of helpline notices was not associated with an observed change in the likelihood of or future suicide searches (P=.42). No statistically significant differences were observed in the likelihood of people making future suicide queries (both generally and specific types of suicide queries) when comparing search engines in locations that display helpline notices versus ones that do not. Pages with higher rank, being neutral to suicide, and those shown among more antisuicide pages were more likely to be clicked on. Having more antisuicide Web pages displayed was the only factor associated with further searches for suicide prevention information (hazard=1.18, P=.002).
Conclusions: Helpline notices are not associated with harm. If they cause positive change in search behavior, it is small. This is possibly because of the variability in intent of users seeking suicide-related information. Nonetheless, helpline notice should be displayed, but more efforts should be made to improve the visibility and ranking of suicide prevention Web pages.