The Samaritans is to undertake one of the most ambitious projects in its 60-year history by looking into the role the internet plays in suicide.
Research will be conducted by Bristol University over the next two years with the Samaritans providing evidence and expertise from those who use its services.
The announcement comes amid growing concern that the internet is playing an increasing role with people who have suicidal thoughts.
The findings of this project will be turned into practical actions, helping us understand how to best support our callers in the future
The charity says the research is on the back of well-publicised cases where suicides have been heavily influenced by self-harm and suicide-related websites as well as social-networking forums.
However, it stresses that the research will take a balanced approach on whether the internet also provides people who have suicidal thoughts with positive support, where previously they had none.
Joe Ferns, executive director of policy, research and development at Samaritans said politicians, journalists and campaigners have been debating the issue of suicide and the web in a vacuum with insufficient hard evidence to support or refute their views.
“The findings of this project will be turned into practical actions, helping us understand how to best support our callers in the future,” he added.
“They will also inform the debate both here in the UK and around the world.”
The project is due to last until March 2016 and will see the Bristol University team, led by Dr Lucy Biddle of the school of social and community medicine, work in partnership with the charity.