Legislators Express Concern Over ‘Suicide Website’

Mental health professional taking notes during a counseling session
Therapy session. | Image from NickyLloyd

Lawmakers in Washington are urging tech companies to take action against a website that encourages suicide and provides clear instructions on how to do it, according to a press release from the House Committee on Energy & Commerce (E&C), on December 22.

“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing mental health crisis in America, especially among our nation’s young people,” the release noted.

The requests by the E&C comes after a recent investigation by The New York Times identifying 45 people who died by suicide after visiting a website which “provides advice on methods of suicide and facilitates discussions encouraging people to take their lives.” The site poses “real harm” according to the statement.

The Committee requested briefings from search engines, web hosting firms, content delivery network companies, and related social media platforms to better understand how this website is able to continue inciting suicide.

“It is imperative that companies take the threat of such sites seriously and take appropriate steps to mitigate harm,” the Committee said.

The Committee has requested briefings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Surgeon General to “discuss this growing crisis and efforts to provide support for Americans and counter harmful online content.”

“We are committed to taking further action to address the role of online content in the nation’s mental health emergency. Meeting the country’s mental health needs and supporting investments in mental health education, prevention, care, and services for all Americans, and especially children and young people, is a priority for the Committee,” the press release stated.

The leading children’s health organizations proclaimed the National State of Emergency in Children’s Mental Health in October 2021, and U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy published a National Advisory on the youth mental health crisis earlier this month.

In May 2021, the House passed twelve bipartisan mental health and suicide prevention bills, including one that would give emergency departments, health care providers, and schools more tools and resources to respond to suicide and mental health needs, as well as support access to and awareness of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and suicide surveillance.

The Committee urges those in crisis to seek help, including through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or through their website.

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