Trigger Warning: This article discusses suicide and related mental health issues.
Every year, suicide takes the lives of almost a million people worldwide; and millions more attempt suicide. In the United States alone, 105 people die every day due to suicide. Yet, with a timely intervention suicide can be prevented. So how can an Internet search engine help save a life?
In 2010, Google launched a service on its’ search engine that is intended to help those struggling with suicidal thoughts to receive the help that they need. When users search for specific terms on Google, they are linked to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number, as seen below:
However, there are still flaws to these systems. Although Google provides the hotline number for searches of ‘suicide’, ‘ways to commit suicide’ and ‘suicidal thoughts’, other searches for suicide-related topics do not provide the link. Search engines have made progress in providing links for certain terminology, but some important results are still excluded. For example, this is my Google search for ‘I want to be dead’:
Although that search currently does not provide a link to the NSPL number, adding it could potential help someone in a time of crisis. Meanwhile, my search for ‘I want to end my life’ warranted a link to the hotline number, but ‘I want to end my own life’ did not.
Additionally, although the hotline links were all placed at the top of the search results, only Google’s search result really stood out in terms of focus on the page.
There are still issues to work out from the system in regards to which searches need to provide the link to the hotline number. Yet overall it seems as though the addition of these search engine features have increased traffic to the suicide hotline’s website and phone number, which has been able to increase the number of people that have been able to get help.
Although there is still work to be done, this is a positive first step in getting help to those struggling with suicidal thoughts.