Several online forums I've frequented have had discussions removed when suicide methods are mentioned. The reasoning have been that discussion about suicide themselves are suicide triggers. While it sounds plausible, and it's not that hard to find anecdotes, is there any research confirming that sentiment?


If you frequent suicide forums you are exposed to a constant stream of suicide information, so naturally that could probably give you that extra push if you are prone to self-destructive behavior.

My questions is not about suicide websites or forums dedicated to suicide methods, who naturally attract people contemplating suicide, but whether discussion about suicide in other contexts also function as triggers.

Example: On a nutrition forum, it's not unheard of threads shifting to discussing toxicity, and then someone mentions cases of suicide by overdosing on a compound. Are you justified in fearing trigger effects even in this context?

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    The first study I linked you to isn't about suicide forums. It's about any forum. Hearing about suicide increases suicidal ideation no matter where the source comes from, except social media apparently. The researchers think the reason is the way suicide is presented. So the take away is its ok to say you are sad someone committed suicide on Facebook, but talking about the methods of suicide on a forum anywhere can be a trigger. Unfortunately I don't see that the study has been replicated.
    – Razie Mah
    Apr 25, 2014 at 19:51
  • Isn’t the concept of a “psychological trigger” itself highly controversial (not the fact that they exist, just the claim that they can be predicted, and avoided)? Apr 27, 2014 at 9:35
  • @KonradRudolph Yes, but I thought it was because it was a freedom of speech issue.
    – Razie Mah
    Apr 29, 2014 at 5:21

2 Answers 2


Yes. Online forums are a trigger for suicide. Any online forum

Protecting Teens from the Spread of Suicide

Although we don’t usually think of suicide as contagious, one of the strongest predictors of suicide in youth is the suicide or suicide attempt of a friend or family member (Juhnke, Granello, & Haag-Granello, 2011; Mayer, 2013). Teens exposed to suicide are at significantly higher risk of suicide over the next two years (Mayer, 2013). Exposure to suicide in online forums (Dunlop, More, & Romer, 2011) and through YouTube videos about suicide fuels self-destructive fantasy and also increases suicide risk.

Recommendations include refraining from giving details or images of the method or place where the victim was found (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1994; Sudak & Sudak, 2005). Care should be taken not to focus on the immediate external precipitant as the cause of the suicide (e.g., a break-up) or other situations to which teens can easily relate (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1994; Mayer, 2013). Doing so increases identification with the victim and can inadvertently convey that suicide could also be a solution to their problems. Another danger is allowing memorializing to go too far, feeding into teen idealization of death and suicide (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1994; Sudak & Sudak, 2005).

Where do youth learn about suicides on the Internet, and what influence does this have on suicidal ideation? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21658185

While traditional sources of information about suicide were most often cited (79% were from friends and family or newspapers), online sources were also quite common (59%). Social networking sites were frequently cited as sources, but these reports were not linked to increases in ideation. However, online discussion forums [any forum] were both cited as sources and associated with increases in ideation.

Also the internet is sometimes used by people who are already planning a suicide to help them learn to commit suicide more effectively-more lethally. Any question about the methods of suicide would be of interest to this group.

Parasuicide online: Can suicide websites trigger suicidal behaviour in predisposed adolescents? http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15204216

The present case report describes a 17-year-old female who explicitly visited suicide web forums, where she researched reliable suicide methods, contacted an anonymous user and purchased substances for the implementation of suicide.

Moderators of these websites specifically are avoiding situations such as this.

I was wrong in the comments. These studies have been replicated many times. See this.

Although this research has been centered on teen suicide, it is likely also an important factor for older age groups who have strong engagement with the internet as well.

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    I don't think this is very good data as the samples are likely not representative. The increase in risk when a friend or family member commits suicide: is that increase relative to if the friend/family-member had just died, if they were depressed, or if they were fine? Furthermore, in the case of a relative, maybe the household was simply stressful, and that stress increased the risk of both parties. I also worry about self selection of people going to websites where suicide is a frequent conversation topic. This needs an RCT but it would probably never get past an ethics board. Apr 29, 2014 at 3:25

According to the Freakonomics podcast there has been some research on the exact topic. The summary of this is that yes, media reports and books about suicide have proven to be and can be.

This paper shows that suicides increase immediately after a suicide story has been publicized in the newspapers in Britain and in the United States, 1947-1968. The more publicity devoted to a suicide story, the larger the rise in suicides thereafter. The rise in suicides after a story is restricted mainly to the area in which the story was publicized. Alternative explanations of these findings are examined; the evidence indicates that the rise in suicides is due to the influence of suggestion on suicide, an influence not previously demonstrated on the national level of suicides. The substantive, theoretical, and methodological implications of these findings are examined.

But it isn't a universal truth; the evidence suggests that there weren't as many copycat suicides of Kurt Cobain as you might expect potentially because the media focused on the suffering of his wife and less on him. At least this is what I took from the discussion.

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    Can you add the relevant quotes from the sources in case the links stop working in the future?
    – rjzii
    Apr 25, 2014 at 13:36
  • The second paragraph is a lot of idle speculation, and some of it flat out wrong (the media focused quite extensively on Cobain’s death). Apr 27, 2014 at 9:37
  • Is that the norm, to transcribe quotes from a podcast in an answer?
    – scottsh
    Apr 29, 2014 at 2:22
  • @scottsh: It is more common to happen in questions rather than answers, as answers tend to rely on more formal sources, but yes.
    – Oddthinking
    Apr 29, 2014 at 4:56

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