Google offers Samaritans link-up

Image caption,
The prominent red telephone is designed to stand out from the page

Google has launched a link-up with Samaritans, displaying the charity's helpline number in response to UK search queries relating to suicide.

Web users entering the word "suicide" or the phrase "commit suicide" will now be shown a red telephone icon at the top of the list of results.

The icon will showcase contact details for Samaritans.

The service, which is designed to be more prominent than advertisements, was first introduced in the US in April.

Google says it aims to connect people who are depressed, suicidal or in distress to information that could help them seek advice and support.

"People turn to the internet for information and advice all the time," said Google's UK chief, Matt Brittin.

"We hope that by adding a highly visible link on searches relating to suicide, Google can help guide those who are vulnerable, distressed or suicidal to the renowned expertise and support service offered by Samaritans."

However, only searches involving "suicide" appear to bring up the direct Samaritans result. In addition, the only direct link to Samaritans' website appears to the right, in Google's section reserved for paid advertising.

More general searches on the subject without using the specific word appear to return a welter of unfiltered web results, and no telephone contact for Samaritans.

A spokeswoman for Google said the system had been extensively tested in the US.

More terms were likely to be added as the service matured over time, she added.

Samaritans welcomed Google's move, calling the new feature a "positive step".

"The internet is a rapidly expanding phenomenon that allows people to access huge amounts of information, much of which is helpful but some of which can occasionally be dangerous," said chief executive Catherine Johnstone.

"It is therefore important that vulnerable and distressed people are steered towards safe places such as Samaritans."

Samaritans in the UK offer confidential support by phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week on 08457 90 90 90.

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