Internet suicide pact
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An Internet suicide pursuant to a cybersuicide pact, which is a suicide pact made between individuals who meet on the Internet.
Although the majority of such internet-related suicide pacts have occurred in Japan (where it takes the name of netto shinju), similar incidents have also been reported from other countries including China, South Korea, Germany, Australia, Norway, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States, and Sweden.
The first known Internet-related suicide pact occurred in Japan in October 2000, with a later February 2003 incident, involving a young man and two young women, that "became a landmark incident of Internet suicide pacts in Japan due to heavy media coverage".
Despite the alarmed response of the media, Internet-connected suicide pacts are still relatively rare. Even in Japan, where most of such pacts have occurred, they still represent only 2% of all group suicide-pacts, and less than 0.01% of all suicides combined. However, they have been increasing in the country: 34 deaths from such pacts occurred in 2003; at least 50 are estimated to have occurred in 2004; and 91 occurred in 2005. One notable example would be Hiroshi Maeue, who on March 28, 2007, was sentenced to death by hanging, alleged to have murdered three participants in a suicide pact.
An article published in the British Medical Journal in December 2004, by a Dr Sundararajan Rajagopal, Consultant Psychiatrist from St. Thomas' Hospital in London, highlighted the emergence of the relatively new phenomenon of cybersuicide pacts, addressing it from a psychiatric perspective. Dr Rajagopal commented "The recent suicide pacts in Japan might just be isolated events in a country that has even previously been shown to have the highest rate of suicide pacts. Alternatively, they might herald a new disturbing trend in suicide pacts, with more such incidents, involving strangers meeting over the Internet, becoming increasingly common. If the latter is the case then the epidemiology of suicide pacts is likely to change, with more young people living on their own, who may have committed suicide alone, joining with like-minded suicidal persons to die together".
Compared to traditional suicide pacts
An article published by the Canterbury Suicide Project makes some notable comparisons between the nature of "traditional" suicide pacts and more recent Internet-related suicide pacts (or, as described in the article, "cyber-based suicide pacts"). It points out that, traditionally, suicide pacts have been extremely rare; usually involve older individuals (50–60 years old) and very few adolescents; and tend to be between individuals with family or marriage-type relationships and differing, but complementary, psychiatric pathologies. On the other hand, the growing number of Internet-related suicide pacts are almost the exact opposite: they involve young people almost exclusively; tend to be between complete strangers or individuals with platonic friendship-type relationships; and the common characteristic between them would seem to be clinical depression.
The article also points out that the trend of Internet-related suicide pacts is changing the way that mental-health workers need to deal with depressed and/or suicidal young people, advising that it is "prudent for clinicians to ask routinely if young people have been accessing Internet sites, obtaining suicide information from such sites, and talking in suicide chat rooms".
One of the first internet suicides in Israel occurred in 1997, when a 19 year old soldier died after expressing his desire to commit suicide online, and received detailed instructions on how to fire multiple shots with a M16 rifle in his possession. Following this case, in 1999, a new Israeli association, SAHAR, sought to prevent suicide by providing supportive conversations and referrals to relevant resources. In 2005, following an increase in the number of internet suicide cases, the police established a special unit which consists of six policemen and specializes in helping people who confess online to wanting to commit suicide. The unit keeps in contact with forum moderators, who are asked to look out for posts from suicidal users. About 200 cases are detected each year, preventing dozens of suicides. Following the success of the Israeli model, similar units have been founded in Sweden, Germany and France.
- "Japan's internet 'suicide clubs'". BBC News. December 7, 2004. Retrieved May 5, 2010.
- Japan’s chilling Internet suicide pacts - - MSNBC.com
- Suicide pacts and the internet - Rajagopal 329 (7478): 1298 - BMJ
- Martin, Nicole (September 30, 2005). "Strangers die after suicide pact on internet". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved January 8, 2010.
- "Swedish man dies in live 'cyber suicide' broadcast". The Local. October 12, 2010. Retrieved October 14, 2010.
- "Suicide as Japan's major export", Kayoko Ueno, Revista Espaco Academico, January 2005
- "Japan suicide reports" Japan Mental Health, January 31, 2005
- "Seven die in online suicide pact in Japan"
- "Six dead in Japan 'suicide pact'", BBC, March 10, 2006
- Japanese net suicide pact murderer to hang. The Register, March 28, 2007
- Sundararajan Rajogopal in British Medical Journal
- "Suicide Pacts", Christchurch School of Medicine, New Zealand, May 2005
- Barak, Azy (March 2007), Emotional support and suicide prevention through the Internet: A field project report, Computers in Human Behavior (Computers in Human Behavior) 23 (2): 971–984, doi:10.1016/j.chb.2005.08.001