Young people in Japan, a nation with an underlying suicide culture, are using the Internet to spawn a lethal trend: group suicides. Suicide websites, with black backgrounds and foreboding imagery, offer detailed instructions on ways to take one’s own life. The sites display postings such as “looking for a friend to kill myself with,” as well as calls for mass suicides on specific dates in designated areas.
“This is the first time that people are meeting strangers for the purpose of committing suicide together. It is truly a modern phenomenon,” says Yukio Saito, one of the founders of a Tokyo suicide hotline. In just the first three months of 2005, there have been 20 cases in Japan of group suicide after individuals met on the Web, resulting in 54 deaths. That compares to 19 such cases and 55 deaths for all of last year. Lonely young men comprise the bulk of the suicide sites’ users, most of them seeking out others with whom to commit suicide. “People [posting on the sites] do not want to die alone,” says Saito, a Methodist minister.