Information-seeking on the internet: an investigation of websites potentially accessed by distressed or suicidal adolescents

Vinod Singaravelu, Anne Stewart, Joanna Adams, Sue Simkin, Keith Hawton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Citations (SciVal)


Background: The Internet is used by young people at risk of self-harm to communicate, find information, and obtain support. Aims: We aimed to identify and analyze websites potentially accessed by these young people. Method: Six search terms, relating to self-harm/suicide and depression, were input into four search engines. Websites were analyzed for access, content/purpose, and tone. Results: In all, 314 websites were included in the analysis. Most could be accessed without restriction. Sites accessed by self-harm/suicide search terms were mostly positive or preventive in tone, whereas sites accessed by the term ways to kill yourself tended to have a negative tone. Information about self-harm methods was common with specific advice on how to self-harm in 15.8% of sites, encouragement of self-harm in 7.0%, and evocative images of self-harm/suicide in 20.7%. Advice on how to get help was given in 56.1% of sites. Conclusion: Websites relating to suicide or self-harm are easily accessed. Many sites are potentially helpful. However, a significant proportion of sites are potentially harmful through normalizing or encouraging self-harm. Enquiry regarding Internet use should be routinely included while assessing young people at risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-219
Number of pages9
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2015


  • Adolescents
  • Internet
  • Self-harm
  • Suicide
  • Websites


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