Suicide a click of the mouse away …

They say one can buy anything, find whatever information one needs and get the contact details of anyone on the WWW. Every day I thank sites like Wikipedia or the CIA’s “World Factbook” when I quickly need to know, say, the kWh of electricity that France exports and imports annually, or how many main line […]

They say one can buy anything, find whatever information one needs and get the contact details of anyone on the WWW.

Every day I thank sites like Wikipedia or the CIA’s “World Factbook” when I quickly need to know, say, the kWh of electricity that France exports and imports annually, or how many main line telephones are in use in metropolitan France.

Yet, there also lurks danger on the Web.

This is something that’s become a very real problem for French parents. I am not now talking about the pornography their children can get hold of at the click of the mouse.

No, I am now talking about suicide.

The death by suicide of two young women here in France last month after having met on a Web chat forum where they had discussed their wish to no longer live – to die – has brought home the bitter realization that death also lies just one click of the mouse away.

Anne Duchêne (22) and Hassina Maizi (21) (may their souls rest in peace as is said) met on the Web. Revealing their most inner thoughts to one another, each learned that the other no longer wished to live. Together they planned their death. On Friday, September 19, a warm and sunny day, they put their plan into action. Anne Duchêne, Hassina Maizi sitting beside her, drove her car on to a level train crossing at Toul (177 miles – 285 kms) from Paris. She cut the engine and together the two young women waited for the moment that a train would smash into them. It did.

Would they still be alive had they not met on the Web to clinch a suicide pact?

“Without exaggerating the phenomenon, and even though every situation is very personal, the risk of the Internet is that it could encourage adolescents with suicidal tendencies to end their life because it is always easier to confront one’s death with someone else than to do so all alone,” says Xavier Pommereau, head of the suicide prevention service at the “Abadie Centre” based in the city of Bordeaux.

Easier to confront one’s death with someone else …

Suicide is now the second biggest cause of death after road accidents among those under 25. Between 600 and 1000 under 25-year-olds take their own life each year. High as this number is, statistics show that suicide among the under 25s has actually decreased by a third in the last 10 years. Two adolescents or two or more young people making a suicide pact is however a relatively new phenomenon in France (in the rest of Europe too) whereas it is a very real problem in Asia, notably Japan where there are approximately 30 suicide pact cases annually.

So, though one can find suicide methods on the Web (the exact legal dose of a sleeping pill for example) and someone to come and die with you and take the loneliness of suicide out of killing oneself, the Web is not exactly encouraging suicide here in France; It is only making it easier to kill oneself.

France’s “cyber cops” – there are 20 of them – are however keeping their eyes on the Web 24/7. STRJD (Service technique de recherches judiciaries et de documentations) based at Rosny-sous-Bois outside Paris was originally formed to track down paedophiles, pornographers and counterfeiters, those guys who are making fake Prada bags and flacons of Chanel No. 5 perfume, but today they also track down sites, chat rooms, blogs etc that encourage suicide.

But as Colonel Hubert of STRJD says, “It’s however quite complicated because suicide discussions can take place just about in any chat room or blog.”

When they do find a suicide discussion or encouragement to commit suicide, they immediately launch an investigation that begins with the guilty one’s ISP. If the site is however not French-registered, they admit that there is little that they can do. The French weekly magazine, VSD, in its latest issue mentions such a foreign-registered site, in fact, the site where Anne Duchene and Hassina Maizi had met, but I’m not going to give it here.

In France it is prohibited by law to incite suicide with a 3/5-year prison sentence.

Assisted suicide is also against the law; but this is another story …

Marilyn Z. Tomlins

2 Responses to “Suicide a click of the mouse away …”

  1. 2
    Jo Says:

    Maybe that’s the problem, Satima, they should have had some idea. I know often people don’t have any clue about people’s wish to commit suicide but is it perhaps because they are not paying sufficient attention to the person? It is still terrible and a waste of young lives. Can you imagine actually sitting there and waiting for the train. How dreadful for the train driver too.

  2. 1
    Satima Flavell Says:

    Horrible, and more than horrible, and so terribly unnecessary. One can only feel for the friends and families of those two younng women who probably had no idea what was going on in their heads.

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