Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Suicide by Internet

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This photograph is of Stephanie Gestier and Jodie Gater, two sixteen year olds from Melbourne. Stephanie and Jodie were friends. Last Sunday, these beautiful girls, who had been missing for a week, were found hanging from trees in the Dandenong Ranges. An apparent suicide pact.

An unbelievable tragedy for their family, friends and community.

While the real reason underlying their action will probably never be known, much attention has been given to the fact that both girls had posted about their depressed mood on MySpace in the months leading up to their their deaths. Stephanie had written explicitly about suicide.

The role of the internet in suicide is growing. Many cases of internet-related suicide have now been recorded worldwide, reflected by the setting up of a bizarre website specifically to record MySpace users who have died.

Interaction between adolescents, being able to share experiences during what can sometimes be a difficult time, is a good thing but it can also be the proverbial double-edged sword. The internet and sites such as MySpace take an individual outside of their normal environment and can potentially expose them to a wide range of ideas and experiences, not necessarily all positive. While understanding that adolescence is a time of striving for autonomy, this tragic story also highlights the need to know who your child is talking to and what they are doing online. A very fine balancing act for any parent.

Most experts agree that during adolescence, it is critical is to be available to listen, be alert to warning signs and to keep the lines of communication open, even though it may not always be easy to do so. For more on risk factors and warning signs for teen suicide, please read this article by Dr. Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist.

If you are experiencing distress, please talk to someone now. The following helpline numbers are available 24 hours. Please note these numbers are valid for Australia only.

Lifeline 131 114
Kids Helpline 1800 551800
Suicide Prevention Crisis Line - (02) 9331 2000

For details of emotional distress/suicide helplines worldwide, please access the Befrienders Worldwide website.


Fat Doctor said...

This post could literally save a life. I'd not heard about this suicide by the Australian girls, but I've seen a lot of cyber-obsessed teens in my clinic. Could I be headed that way? I do have MySpace and Facebook accounts because I wanted to meet old friends from high school. It's a bit addictive, isn't it? For me, it's not quite at the expense of my real-life friendships. If it gets to be that bad, I pray someone will intervene.

SeaSpray said...

So very Tragic. So young and if they had gotten the help they needed - who knows?

psychgrad said...

I didn't know that this was so prevalent that it would warrant a website. I wonder if kids would be better off without so much technology.

HP said...

Hi FD,
There's a lot of bad press currently about MySpace and adolescents in that there really are few controls in place to protect individuals. It is a concern. I had a MySpace account but gave it up when I kept getting all kinds of odd contacts.

Hi SeaSpray,
It makes me very sad every time I look at that photo. Every parents worst nightmare.

Hi Psychgrad,
It's true. I didn't publish the name of the website because I'm not 100% sure of what it's purpose is and I didn't want to draw attention to something that really would be better not existing.

The Little Student said...

Sad... Japan has been particularly plagued by internet suicide pacts...

patientanonymous said...

Oh dear...glad I'm where I am right now...even though it's a bit difficult and uncomfortable for me. I wish they had gotten help. It's hard to do--reach out and ask for it but well...necessary.

Yes, it's tough with the proliferation of information out there...it does certainly require more awareness--for people to pay more attention to warning signs etc... Perhaps even more so where young persons are involved?

Dr. Deb said...

This is SUCH a sad story. Your post will aid others to understand the warning signs more.

Just read an article least week in Science Daily:


My heart goes out to these families and all those who loved these girls. Tragic.

jumpinginpuddles said...

living in victoria and knowing the ranges really well this hit hard even harder by the fact no one heard but more than that readers read but didnt help

Alison said...

I saw Michael Carr-Greg speak on Friday and he spoke about these girls and the need for us all to pay more attention to our youth. It's such an urgent need to take better care of them. I've posted on my experience of hearing him. It really moved me.

Alison said...

Finally worked out why I was not able to leave comments. Like um, DER.

Awake In Rochester said...

I live in the U.S, and saw a T.V. special having to do with teens who committed suicide. They also mentioned the Internet connection. Most expressed feeling of sever depression, and/or suicidal thoughts on My Space, and blogs. These were separate events, but I believe that they all hung themselves. Now I read that these young people in Australia also hung themselves. Besides it obviously being tragic, why choose hanging? Are these kids reading a how to manual over the net? I mean it doesn't sound like a quick, and painless way to go. It just sounds like an odd method, and a bit to coincidental.