Not long ago I watched an episode of Law and Order SVU that addressed the issue of “Suicide Clubs”. Basically it involved a lady dying of kidney failure who ran a web site called “CatchTheTrain.com.(not a real web site) It was a web site for people to discuss their thoughts on suicide and ways to commit suicide. Knowing that Law and Order usually takes episode ideas from real life incidents; I did a Google but didn’t see a whole lot. I concluded that it was probably illegal to have such sites up in the United States as it is illegal to in most states to facilitate euthanasia/suicide.
I should have expanded my search worldwide. Such clubs do exist. They are under the radar and loosely structured in chat rooms and social networking sites but defenitely real. Today I was forwarded an article on DIGG entitled: Suicide Clubs Lure 20 Thousand Russian Teenagers . There are apparently hundreds of these webs sites in Russia where people, primarily teens, discuss ways to kill themselves.
Now armed with some better search terms, I set out to see if this was Russian phenomenon or a worldwide “psychological epidemic”. My search took me first to Japan which has the highest suicide rate in the world. I found the article Japan Internet Suicide Clubs. It appears that “Suicide Cults” in Japan are rampant. A growing number of teen suicides in Japan have been tracked to origination in internet chat rooms. The article goes on to state: “It is a growing, and morbidly frank underworld of chat rooms and websites with names like “Suicide Club,” where thousands of (mainly young) people meet and talk and plan their deaths”
My travels next took me to the U.K. Where I found an article about a small Welsh town which has seen 16 of its’ youth commit suicide in one year allegedly using a web site called Bebop to discuss their own deaths. Bebo is a Facebook type application that caters to teens and younger.
The Laws governing assisted suicide vary widely around the world. Some countries having no laws at all addressing the issue.
What about the United States? It is a tricky issue in this country with conflicts between state and federal law. Anyone who knows about Dr Jack Kevorkian knows that physician assisted suicide is illegal in many states. As of today only the state of Oregon has a law that expressly allows physician assisted suicide under its “Death with Dignity Act” With all the conflict, stigma, and shame is it any wonder that troubled teens turn to their own in these loosely structured but definitely real web based suicide clubs and chat rooms.
Let’s forget about the legal and medical ethical issues when a physician is involved. What if it is the person’s high school classmate? What if it is another high school student across the country? Every time a teen commits suicide in the United States, I wonder how many other teens in some web chat room knew he/she was going to do it before it happened. The answer would probably shock us. We are so focused on making sure are kids are not being preyed on by pedophiles and perverts that we forget to look at what our kids are actually saying on the web to their legitimate peer group. A peer group comprised of other kids who are less interested in the illegality of helping a friend or person in similar pain than simply helping a friend or person in similar pain. Misery loves company has never been more scary…..
I can think of a few more key words to put into your internet filter software……