Emotional support and suicide prevention through the Internet: A field project report

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    The Internet can be efficiently exploited to help people in severe emotional distress, including those contemplating suicide. Based on this premise and guided by various psychological principles that characterize Internet communication and behavior, on the one hand, and by factors related to the provision of emotional support, on the other, an Israeli project with the Hebrew acronym SAHAR was established. The idea behind SAHAR was to initiate an anonymous, confidential online environment that would attract people in a crisis situation and offer them a listening ear, mental support, and warmth, provided by anonymous, skilled helpers. At the heart of this exclusively online service is a content-rich Hebrew website (http://www.sahar.org.il) that provides relevant and continuously updated information for people in need. Accessed through the site, SAHAR offers, in addition, personal communication to users through synchronous and asynchronous support. For group communication, SAHAR provides online forums (a chat room will soon be launched). The website is accessed more than 10,000 times a month, or 350 times a day, a considerable number relative to Israel's small population. Approximately 1000 personal contacts with SAHAR itself take place, each month, of which at least a third of the distressed users are clearly suicidal. The forums receive over 200 new messages a day. SAHAR on numerous occasions has participated in rescue operations of individuals who threatened to commit suicide or were actually in the process of trying. In many other cases, a supportive conversation or a referral to appropriate help resources prevented hasty decisions by highly distressed, desperate people contemplating suicide. Feedback by users also indicates the success of SAHAR as a unique psychological application on the Internet.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)971-984
    Number of pages14
    JournalComputers in Human Behavior
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2007


    • Emotional support
    • Online counseling
    • Prevention
    • Suicide

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Human-Computer Interaction
    • General Psychology


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