Foundation welcomes Tumblr decision to block pro-suicide blogs

Monday 27 February 2012, 12:49PM
By The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand

The Mental Health Foundation has welcomed a move by Tumblr, the popular international blogging and social networking site, to remove pages from users on its platform that encourage suicide and self-harm.

“Social networking and internet have provided great opportunities for reaching people experiencing mental distress, and spreading help-seeking messages, which we have taken full advantage of over the last few years with our online resources,” says Judi Clements, chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation.

“However, the ease with which people can find what they want on the internet also has a downside, meaning that messages that aren’t so positive – including those that promote self-harm and suicide – can be easily found.”

A New Zealand study on the influence of the internet on suicidal behaviour led by Professor Sunny Collings at the University of Otago found that when using search terms related to suicide or self-harm, four pro-suicide sites featured amongst the ten most retrieved international Google results, compared to only one support site.

“Tumblr’s policy change is to be welcomed because it recognises three important things about suicide prevention and the internet: that negative messages about suicide and self-harm need to be countered with good, positive information that encourages people to seek help; that pro-suicide sites need to be discouraged as actively as possible; and that we all have a role to play in suicide prevention,” Clements continues.

“That Tumblr have taken this decision to change their content policy without intervention from an outside source is a socially responsible move which displays a commitment to the global community that we all form part of as internet users.”

It is estimated that Tumblr receives over 13 billion page views per month worldwide, and is among the top 30 most popular websites in New Zealand.

Tumblr’s policy change includes removing blogs and content that actively promote suicide and self-harm, and including help-seeking messages and links to appropriate online resources when users search for terms related to suicide or self-harm.