Internet: Suicide

Department of Health written question – answered on 21st November 2017.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the answers by Lord Agnew of Oulton on 7 November and Lord Ashton of Hyde on 6 November (HL Deb, col 1594), what assessment they have made of the presence of sites that promote suicide on the internet, in the light of research published by the University of Manchester in May 2016 which found that 22 per cent of suicide victims had been bullied and 27 per cent of victims had been experiencing academic pressures at school, college or university.

Photo of Lord O'Shaughnessy Lord O'Shaughnessy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health

We are aware of the positive and negative impacts that the internet can have on mental wellbeing and the potential harmful effect of websites with content that promotes suicide. We expect online providers to take action where harmful content is identified or online abuse is reported and breaches their policies. The recently enacted Digital Economy Act will help to ensure that online abuse is effectively tackled by requiring a code of practice to be established, which will set out guidance for social media providers on what they should do in relation to harmful or inappropriate conduct on their platforms. We also support organisations such as the Samaritans, which works with online providers to improve the way that online users can report harmful content and encourages providers to take action.

The Government provided £1.5 million to fund research through the Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy and this included research into the use of the internet by people with experience of suicide. It showed that people with experience of suicide have used the internet to find information and support online as well as searching suicidal content and that we should seek to harness the positive effects of the internet and support vulnerable people online. The Government is consulting on the National Internet Safety Strategy until 7 December, which seeks to improve safety online for everyone.

We welcome the study by the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness on Suicide by Children and Young People in England (May 2016) and we considered its findings when updating the Cross-Government Suicide Prevention Strategy this year.

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