Thursday, November 27, 2008

Can pro-anorexia websites be attributed to suicide?

Ever since the publishing of the Newsweek article about Pro-Anorexia websites moving to Facebook, there has been a lot of discussion about the allowance of these groups on such public social domains. Well, now there will be more fury to the fire.

Almost a year ago, a 13-year old girl named Imogen D'Arcy from Leeds, England, committed suicide. In a note found by her parents, it was learned that Imogen had body image issues and felt "fat" and "ugly." Upon investigation, it was found that in the weeks leading up to her death, she frequented pro-anorexia websites and had the lyrics to the song, "Courage" by Superchick on her computer.

Her mother's take on the pro-anorexia websites:
"Imogen accessed internet suicide sites on her computer and whilst these were not the root cause of her suicidal thoughts, these sites provided her with the means and guaranteed the success of her actions."

I think this is a tragic case, and it is obvious, there must have been a lot going on in this young girl's life. Perhaps if she had received treatment (none of the articles said she had as it seemed her parents were not aware to what she was feeling), she could have been helped. (Another article here about pro-anorexia websites and this case. Warning: images may be triggering)

I certainly agree with her mother that the pro-anorexia websites cannot be blamed for D'Arcy's already suicidal thoughts, but I think there is real fear with discovering the "means." Now, I know most people going to these websites are not looking at ways to kill themselves, but rather want to be in a place where they feel others understand them and/or are looking for tips to lose weight. Still however, it's the whole idea that these types of things can be taken too far, and especially for someone already in an unstable state both emotionally and physically.

So where do we draw the line?

Over the years there have been several controversial books about suicide. One rose to number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller List after its publishment and is now in its third edition. However, that book has been banned in France, though is available in 12 languages. Another book was pulled from the market after it seemed like a "how-to" manual.

I don't know what the best options are here as it seems like nothing is a win-win situation as people are desperate for information. In the end, if someone is in the mindset of suicide, they find a way.

If you are suicidal, please call a hotline or speak to someone you trust.

Related post: study on anorexia and suicide

*Note: I'd normally post the links about the books mentioned above, but I do NOT feel comfortable with this.


Anonymous said...

That is so young. So so young to become that disillusioned with the world, that it seems better to die.

There was talk in Australia recently of possibly instigating internet filtering strategies that would require internet service providers to filter out illegal material and potentially harmful content like gambling of pro-ana. I've read so much information about pro-ana, my hatred for it only grows deeper. Pro-suicide is even more horrendous, and it is quite frightening just what you can get hold of over the internet.

Research findings seem in conclusive as to how much damage these sites do, but personally I found them incredibly destructive.

Tiptoe said...

Lola, I had heard some news about the filtering for illegal material but hadn't read it in detail. I think it is a real gray area, although I certainly do not agree with pro-ana sites.

You're right the research is inconclusive, especially since the law hasn't quite caught up with the cyberworld.

CEDquiz said...

Thanks for the great entry regarding the growth of pro-ana groups on social networking sites like Facebook. The Center for Eating Disorders, home to Dr. Crawford, who is interviewed in the Newsweek article, just wrote a blog entry about this growing problem. To read about what CED thinks about this issue or to view the link to the Newsweek article:

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