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Mental Health Center

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Death Hyperlink: Internet Suicide Pacts

Medical Journal Warns of 'Cybersuicide' Trend

Suicide Sites Easy to Find continued...

"Catching a bus," on these web sites, is slang for killing oneself. Don't try to log on to save anyone. Those leaving antisuicide messages are banned from the sites.

Perhaps it was just talk and nothing serious. But psychologist Gerald Goodman, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of California in Los Angeles, says it's important to take talk of suicide seriously.

"Suicide oftentimes involves some sense of isolation," Goodman says. "Theorists say that the heart of it is meaninglessness. Meaninglessness without hope. When you look at why people do it, there are several things that add up: isolation, meaninglessness, and self-loathing -- disgust with oneself."

The Wrong Kind of Community Support

If isolation is part of the recipe for suicide, wouldn't a community -- even an Internet chat room of suicidal people -- keep people from killing themselves?

No, Goodman says. In fact, suicidal patients often tell him in chilling language that other people's suicides gave them "inspiration" or "courage" to kill themselves. It comes, ironically, from the human need to be known.

"The suicide wants company. The suicidal person thinks, 'I want to be known by you, and if you truly empathize with me there is no question you will want to talk me out of it - because if you know me you know it is the right thing to do,'" Goodman says. "So the empathy on these web sites is not saying, "Oh, I really understand you.' Instead, they demonstrate that they know how you feel by adding to it. It is collaborative. It is mutual support for suicide."

Goodman notes that there are many more web sites dedicated to mental health, support, and professional help than there are to suicide. But the suicide sites offer something enormously powerful.

"Mutual support is more powerful as a change agent than psychotherapy," Goodman says. "Psychotherapy is one-way intimacy. But with mutual support, we are both in it together. You aren't going to try to talk me out of it. We want the same thing. I've heard the word inspiration twice in this context. Inspiration for suicide."

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