Sir: Thompson's article on the internet and suicide (Psychiatric Bulletin, August 1999, 23, 449–451) is a timely and welcome addition to the slowly growing literature on the internet and health. However, she could possibly have developed further positive ways of approaching the influence of the internet. Attempting to shut down, or restrict access to internet sites dealing with suicide is likely to be difficult to enforce in practice and may inadvertently block access to sources of positive help. It is important to stress the potential benefits of support online. The vast majority of online informants of my current thesis in medical anthropology on chronic fatigue syndrome and internet use reported that it provided a lifeline in the face of prejudice and lack of sympathy for family and desertion by friends. There is a vast untapped potential for NHS trusts and bodies such as Mind, or the Royal College of Psychiatrists to set up websites, moderated newsgroups and Internet Relay Chat (IRC) services to provide more therapeutic approaches to suicide and mental illness than those described by Thompson.
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