Shielding Our Loved Ones Against Online Suicide Platforms
In the age of digital connectivity, the internet serves as a double-edged sword. While it offers immense opportunities for learning, networking, and growth, it also harbors darker corners, including platforms that promote self-harm and suicide. Protecting our loved ones from these online suicide platforms has become an imperative task in today’s digital landscape.
The emergence of online spaces promoting self-harm and suicide has presented a significant challenge to mental health advocates, families, and society at large. These platforms often masquerade as supportive communities but instead propagate harmful content, normalizing destructive behaviors and fostering an environment that can push vulnerable individuals towards thoughts of self-harm and suicide.
The Unlawful Threat
Keneth Law, a 58-year-old former Canadian chef is one such man. He sold sodium nitrite, a food additive in large quantities online to vulnerable people. This food additive if consumed beyond 3.7 mg of the body weight of a person can kill them…silently. He faces second-degree murder charges for 14 people but is responsible for the death of over 100 people globally.
Though Law’s sites have been shut down, there are plenty of other people selling poison online. The Dutch police arrested a man known as Alex S for peddling the same substance as Law. (No law restricts the sale of these chemicals legally online)
However, countries such as Germany, and Italy, and internet service providers in the UK have blocked access to Law’s suicide forum. Japan has imposed strict controls on the sale of sodium nitrite, and California has banned selling it to minors. Massachusetts has introduced a bill that limits the purity of sodium nitrite to 10 percent as opposed to the 99.9 percent pure product that Law offered, so that it can be used in kitchens but not as a means of suicide.
Keeping Loved Ones Safe
According to Dr Sonal Asthana, Aster Hospital Bengaluru, if someone ingests sodium nitrite, an emergency medical team will attempt to keep them alive through certain life-saving treatments like oxygen treatment. The survival chance depends on the amount of sodium nitrite consumed and how promptly the person receives treatment.
These are the clinical symptoms of sodium nitrite that he says one should look out for
- Altered skin color
- Nausea and vomiting
- Altered mental state and confusion
- Rapid heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
Apart from treating the poison toxicity, Dr Ali Khwaja, psychologist and founder of Banjara Academy, Bengaluru says protection of loved ones can also be in the form of emotional and mental support that prevents people from being pushed to end their lives.
He shares a list of behavioral traits that suicidal people display which can be dealt with immediately.
- Unwillingness to communicate about their feelings.
- Change in dressing habits.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
- Developing a pessimistic outlook
- Losing interest in activities that were liked earlier.
Fatima Sheikh, a counselor from Mumbai and owner of ‘Heal Counselling Centre’, says that we live in a world that is ill-equipped for mentally and emotionally weaker people. The first step would be to create a safer environment for them to feel accepted and heard. “People are cornered to take their lives not because they want to die but because they are trying to escape from something unbearable which drags them into a crisis mode.”
Sheikh further shares crucial steps and measures that can be taken to safeguard our loved ones from the perils of online suicide platforms:
1-Awareness and Education: Education is the first line of defense. Ensuring that our loved ones are informed about the existence and dangers of online suicide platforms is crucial. Open and honest discussions about mental health, the potential risks of certain online spaces, and the importance of seeking help when feeling distressed can empower individuals to make informed decisions.
2-Monitoring Online Activity: While privacy is important, monitoring online activity, especially for younger individuals, can be vital. Parents or guardians can utilize parental control tools and monitoring software to keep an eye on the websites their children are visiting and the content they’re engaging with.
3-Encouraging Safe Online Practices: Teaching responsible online behavior, such as not sharing personal information with strangers, being cautious about joining unfamiliar online communities, and reporting harmful content, can help mitigate the risks associated with online platforms.
4-Establishing Open Communication: It is crucial to foster an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their online experiences without fear of judgment. Encouraging open communication about internet usage and mental health can make it easier for someone to seek help if they encounter distressing content online.
5-Seeking Professional Help and Support: If there are concerns about a loved one’s mental health or if they have been exposed to harmful online content, seeking professional help from therapists, counselors, or mental health organizations becomes essential. These professionals can provide guidance, support, and necessary interventions.
6-Promoting Positive Online Spaces: Encouraging participation in positive and constructive online communities or activities that promote mental health awareness, positivity, and support can provide a healthier alternative to negative online spaces.
7-Advocating for Regulation and Reporting: Reporting harmful content and advocating for stricter regulations on platforms that allow or promote self-harm and suicide-related content is crucial. It’s essential to hold these platforms accountable and push for responsible online environments.
David Parfett who lost his son his 23-year-old son to Law’s unethical practices said in an interview with ‘Toronto Life’ “We’re not going to stop everybody dying by suicide, but there’s a significant cohort we will stop by removing these easy, quick, cheap ways of dying. I hope that some reasonable balance could be struck between people accessing the compounds for legitimate purposes in the food industry and not having them accessible at the click of a button for others sitting at home with other plans.”
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