Kari Huus writes on msnbc.com that the Japanese, who have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, are forming suicide pacts on the internet. On Sunday, the bodies of four young Japanese men were found in a car, and evidence that they’d all agreed to kill themselves together was found on their computers. These suicide pacts have resulted in 18 deaths so far this year.

The victims are usually young and meet in an internet chat room, where they encourage each other to kill themselves. In May, police discovered the bodies of a man, age 30, and two women, ages 22 and 18, who all died of carbon monoxide poisoning from a coal-burning stove after sealing themselves in a room with plastic sheeting and duct tape. None of them had known the others before they met online and started planning their suicides. Suicide sites recommend this method as fast and painless. Not all suicide attempts work?two girls, ages 14 and 17, jumped off a five-story building together and were badly injured, but didn?t die.

“We are picking up a lot (of suicide sites) that are just in Japanese,” says Parry Aftab of WiredSafety. “We report them to local law enforcement, or the ISP to have them take down the sites. But they just pop up someplace else”

“The way they bill it is, ‘If you?re going to do it, don’t hurt yourself?do it right,'” says the WiredSafety director of security, who uses by the pseudonym Gambler. “They portray themselves as philanthropists.”

“Generally, they have a serious emotional problem, which is that they have difficulty dealing with others face-to-face, a kind of phobia or fear of talking about their feelings in front of others,” says Methodist minister Yukio Saito, who founded Japan’s first suicide-prevention hotline. “Maybe this is quite a Japanese-type emotion. They have difficulty having personal relationships, so they tend to use the Internet to communicate their feelings.”

There is a lot of pressure to conform in Japan?to do well in school and get the right job?which can lead to depression. Depressed people isolate themselves from others and in Japan, where 40% of the population is online, the web is the natural place for them to go. Author Mitsuyo Ohira, who wrote about her own teenage suicide attempts, says, “In the virtual realm of the Internet?many such youngsters feel they can open up to strangers because everyone is ‘faceless,’ so to speak. They reveal their honest thoughts and their Net buddies reciprocate. This convinces them they have finally met their true soulmates for the first time in their lives. But unfortunately, this is an illusion.”

Is there someone who can give us hope, who has the answers? As part of our continuing series on UFOs, Lisette Larkins will tell us how to communicate with them on Dreamland June 21st. This week, listen to Sean Casteel, who’s interviewed many top UFO investigators.

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