Google Could Help Anorexics With One Small Change, So Why Won't It Do It?

Did you know that if you Google "how to kill myself" you'll be directed to a suicide prevention hot-line before you are offered suicide methods? About three years ago, Google realized that people in desperate situations were turning to the Internet for guidance. Instead of making it easier for people to commit suicide, the website decided to make it easier for them to get help. That's why Google made sure the top hit for "ways to commit suicide" and "suicidal thoughts" is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline's toll-free number.

Kathy Benn, the mother of Shelby, a young girl who lost a two-year battle with anorexia, wants Google to do the same for pro-anorexia or pro-bulimia searches. She created a Change.org petition in which she explains that  simply "placing a banner that displays a helpline and recovery support on top of the results pages of eating disorders queries ... can promote health and recovery." Since eating disorders have higher death rates than any other mental illness, why isn't Google stepping up to save these victims' lives?


"Currently, there are over 50 million results on your pages related to searches for Pro-ANA (promoting ANorexiA) and Pro-Mia (promoting buliMIA) sites, and millions more for 'thinspo' and 'thinspiration' searches. These pages encourage the harmful thoughts and behaviors that make eating disorders deadly, but offer no hope of recovery," the grieving mother says.

She's asking Google to "strategically place a banner on these health damaging pages with a helpline number and a link to potentially life-saving information from those like the National Eating Disorders Association."

If Google intervened in the case of suicide, why wouldn't it do the same for eating disorders? Thousands of women and men die from them every year. Although 10-15% of victims are male, it's an illness that overwhelmingly affects women. In fact, according to the South Carolina Department of Health, "the mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate of ALL causes of death for females 15 – 24 years old." Women are dying. Women need help. Google can help.

These online communities normalize extremely dangerous behaviors and could be easily adjusted to index helpful resources for victims. 

Google has shown it can do good. It should do good here. Sign the petition today.

For more on body image, follow @feministabulous on Twitter.

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Elizabeth Plank

Elizabeth is a Senior Correspondent at Mic and the host of Flip the Script.

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