Suicide prevention via the Internet: A descriptive review
Jacob, N., Scourfield, J., & Evans, R.
Background: While concerns abound regarding the impact of the Internet on suicidal behaviors, its role as a medium for suicide prevention remains underexplored. Aims: The study examines what is currently known about the operation and effectiveness of Internet programs for suicide and self-harm prevention that are run by professionals. Method: Systematic searches of scholarly databases and suicide-related academic journals yielded 15 studies that presented online prevention strategies. Results: No professional programs with a sole focus on nonsuicidal self-harm were identified, thus all studies reviewed focused on suicide prevention. Studies were predominantly descriptive and summarized the nature of the strategy and the target audience. There was no formal evaluation of program effectiveness in preventing suicide. Studies either presented strategies that supported individuals at risk of suicide (n = 8), supported professionals working with those at risk (n = 6), or attempted to improve website quality (n = 1). Conclusion: Although the Internet increasingly serves as an important medium for suicidal individuals, and there is concern about websites that both promote and encourage suicidal activity, there is lack of published evidence about online prevention strategies. More attention is needed in the development and evaluation of such preventative approaches.