Is Suicide Really Painless on the Internet . . .

“But in the meantime I want to warn youngsters about the possible dangers these websites can pose.

“I would also like to warn parents to be actively on the alert for signs of their children being influenced by others on these sites.”

Coroner Phillip Walters, from January 2008 Mail Online Story “Coroner launches probe into ‘internet suicide cult’ after SEVEN youngsters in one town hang themselves”

While the legal system attempts to reconcile existing laws with criminal activity that is vectored through cyberspace, the pending trial of The Serial Suicide Killer William Melchert-Dinkel represents the first consolidation of awareness of a problem that has been brewing beneath the virtual surface for some time.

In fact, it would appear that the absence of physical interaction provided through suicide chat rooms and forums delivers for many the final push to do something that they would have unlikely been able to do outside of the isolation and anonymity of the Internet.

At least this would appear to be the case according to members of one suicide forum who say that “discussing their suicidal inclinations online is much easier than in real life.”

In the June 8th, 2003 (that’s right 2003) article “A Virtual Path To Suicide,” which talked about how 19 year old Suzy Gonzales took her life by drinking a cyanide cocktail, the young Florida State University student provided some insight into the manner in which these chat rooms are alluringly effective at muting the consequences of such a drastic course of action.

 

19 year old Suzy Gonzales

“When online, I am calm and collected,” Gonzales wrote 10 days before her death but,  “give me a couple of seconds of talking about (suicide) in person and it’s the same as with the suicide hotline.”  “I get shaky and start crying. And then I just feel silly — Basically, I just need a friend who will understand me.”

A friend and understanding is something we all need throughout our life, however a friend does not push you off the precipice of an irreversible decision with eternal consequences.

While Andrew Beals, the founder of the group that “counseled” Gonzales, expressed his continuing belief that suicide is a “valid way to end depression and terminal illness,” he also cautioned that online forums such as the one he started in 1990 “wasn’t intended to be a fly trap for the suicidal.”

In a kind of ironic twist Beals, who dropped out of his own group a couple of years later after finding new meaning in life when he “got a divorce, got happier and got a dog,” leads one to ask the question why weren’t Suzy Gonzales and more recently Mark Drybrough and Nadia Kajouji  been afforded the same opportunity for an alternative path?

Like a mob cheering at a public hanging these chat rooms, which we discovered with Melchert-Dinkel, are nothing more than a means by which predators can satiate their desire for the thrill of the chase by pulling the emotional strings of those who are most vulnerable.

What is even more disconcerting as highlighted in the 2008 Mail Online story is that these forums can actually take on a “cult-like” appeal that “romanticizes” teenage death.

No where was this alarm sounded louder than it was in the town of Bridgend, where it was reported that seven youngsters aged 17 to 27 had hung themselves in a one year period.  All had apparently belonged to the same Bebo and MySpace website – although no social network is immune – which led the town’s Coroner Phillip Walters to issue the ominous warning as he began his initial investigation into the deaths and the role that these Internet communities played in the spate of suicides.

 

Zachary Barnes, 17

Natasha Randall, 17

In the end, the virtual realms of the Internet are disconcertingly invasive and powerfully influential in that they lack the physical attributes that can alert parents or family members and friends to the possibility that trouble is brewing on the near horizon.   For example, if someone begins to hang out with the wrong crowd, a parent can actually see this happening and have an opportunity to intervene.

However, within the obfuscated virtual reality of a teenager’s bedroom, where the openness of cyberspace belies the supposed safety that is one’s home, and where predators like Melkchert-Dinkel freely move about, the consequences of Internet-inspired suicide eventually and painfully collides with the real world.

Remember to use the following LINK for our ongoing coverage of the Serial Suicide Killer’s case leading up to his trial in 2011.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Is Suicide Really Painless on the Internet . . .”
  1. fielding dent says:

    Tragic. What are the proposed solutions?

    • Thank you for the question Fielding. While my outrage at the callousness of people in these chat rooms to prey upon the vulnerabilities of others would lead to a knee jerk reaction re shut them down, I think that vigilance starting in the home is perhaps the best way to combat this situation. What are your thoughts relative to possible solutions?

      • fielding dent says:

        My opinion on this topic is most likely far to outlandish to state.

      • Now you have peaked my curiosity Fielding . . . please share because in relation to our coverage of this case nothing is likely to surprise or shock. However, and knowing you, you always have something worthwhile to provide in the way of an opinion.

  2. fielding dent says:

    Parents need to tell their children DAILY how important they are and how much they are loved. Just simply for being themselves. This cannot be legislated or required by law. I would never want this or advocate this… There is nothing more important or more simple then this. If need be…use the very same technology that these ghouls use if necessary. A few text messages…a nice note…a hug…one on one meetings, naturally are preferred. This must be genuine as children and adults can detect things of a contrived nature. Yes Yes…I know it’s too simple…its fallible…and in these case it’s “after the fact”…On the other hand we have children! And we need to prioritize these things. We work and provide and teach and all of this…and miss out on the simple gestures…the tenderness and love that we have the ability to express…this is not to place blame at all on these parents or others…NOT AT ALL…it is merely a suggestion…and anyone can refund their misery if i am wrong.

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