Pro-suicide is such a crude term and begs the question, “Are expressions like pro-bullying or pro-domestic violence valid in the same way?” Probably not. With that being the case, why are the national press compelled to use this term when broaching the subject of websites that give advice or guidance on the act of seppuku?
There have been calls from the usual backbench suspects – who clearly have very little to do outside of election year other than to stand up in the house and make absurd suggestions – to consider laws that could never possibly be implemented. Not without severe repercussions on freedom of speech and monstrous infringements of civil liberties.
For a government to inhibit the circulation of the theory of practices that are not punishable by law, but rather frowned upon by society, would make the position of countless other publications, unrelated to suicide, untenable. This would of course be across all mediums; print, online, television, radio. In essence, to prevent access by force, as is being suggested, to websites that glorify or ‘normalise’ suicide, would open the flood gates to all those who feel the desire to complain about anything that aggrieves them in the media.
As an example, citation of this proposed act could have been used in the case of The Christian Faith vs. Jerry Springer The Opera. The BBC received 55,000 written complaints when it was due to be aired on the BBC2 channel in 2005. Would this have been enough public outcry to warrant invoking this act, leaving us instead doomed to ‘Allo ‘Allo repeats (which itself could be censored if enough French people claimed racism) on that Saturday night?
Legislation is no substitute for treatment or prevention. If there was enough attention focused on mental health treatment, which there is not, then perhaps there should be no need to consider absurd censorship such as this.
In my county, Cardiff, there is currently a six month waiting list to see a councelor courtesy of the National Health Service. This has been same since at least 2001. I can tell you this from personal experience. If a person seeks help from their GP citing issues of mental health, they are first and foremost offered anti-depressant drugs and then asked if they would like to be added to the waiting list to see a specialist for counseling. For some people half a year is too long, but have no other choice. Private counseling is an an option that is not always viable, for a multitude of reasons.
It takes a lot of courage for somebody experiencing mental turmoil to turn to somebody for help and for them to be dealt with in such a manner when they do, even more so with the state of mind that they are in at that time, can be horribly detrimental to their health.
In the wake of the Bridgend crisis the UK government should take this opportunity to improve the mental health services available to these vulnerable persons who feel the need to visit ‘pro-suicide’ websites, before it’s too late.