Background: Suicide represents a public health concern, imposing a dramatic burden. Prosuicide websites are “virtual pathways” facilitating a rise in suicidal behaviors, especially among socially isolated, susceptible individuals.
Objective: The aim of this study is to characterize suicide-related webpages in the Italian language.
Methods: The first 5 most commonly used search engines in Italy (ie, Bing, Virgilio, Yahoo, Google, and Libero) were mined using the term “suicidio” (Italian for suicide). For each search, the first 100 webpages were considered. Websites resulting from each search were collected and duplicates deleted so that unique webpages could be analyzed and rated with the HONcode instrument
Results: A total of 65 webpages were included: 12.5% (8/64) were antisuicide and 6.3% (4/64) explicitly prosuicide. The majority of the included websites had a mixed or neutral attitude toward suicide (52/64, 81.2%) and had informative content and purpose (39/64, 60.9%). Most webpages targeted adolescents as an age group (38/64, 59.4%), contained a reference to other psychiatric disorders or comorbidities (42/64, 65.6%), included medical/professional supervision or guidance (45/64, 70.3%), lacked figures or pictures related to suicide (41/64, 64.1%), and did not contain any access restraint (62/64, 96.9%). The major shortcoming to this study is the small sample size of webpages analyzed and the search limited to the keyword “suicide.”
Conclusions: Specialized mental health professionals should try to improve their presence online by providing high-quality material.