Although social media can be a tool to share happy times with friends and family, it also provides an outlet to share life’s struggles and disappointments. Yesterday I came across a news story about a woman who called police after an acquaintance on Facebook reported that he had killed two people and himself. That led to another news article about a man whose life was saved after friends responded to his Facebook post stating that he “wanted to end it all.”
If users are vigilant, social media can be a powerful tool to provide support and assistance to those in crisis.
If you are concerned about someone’s post online, please take a moment to assess their risk and ask them if they are talking about suicide. Trust your suspicions and gently ask direct questions about whether they are depressed or thinking about suicide. You won’t “give them the idea” of suicide just by asking honest questions. The more detailed the plan, especially with available and lethal means, the greater the immediate risk.
Facebook recently launched a tool aimed at improving safety on its site, enabling an instant chat session for someone seeking help. Here’s how it works- if you spot a suicidal thought on a friend’s page, you can report it to Facebook by clicking a link next to the comment. Then Facebook sends an email to the person who posted the comment encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or to click a link to begin a confidential chat. Crisis center staff is available 24/7 to respond to users who select the chat option. The Lifeline reports that they respond to dozens of users on Facebook each day.
You can learn more from the Facebook help center:
If you have encountered a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, please immediately contact law enforcement or a suicide hotline.
- For help contacting your local suicide prevention organization, click here.
- To report suicidal content to Facebook, click here.
- For resources about identifying and responding to suicide warning signals, click here.
If you are concerned about the safety of someone online, please take their posting seriously and act swiftly to help. If you don’t know how to start, Foundation 2 Crisis Center staff is happy to help you brainstorm options. You can reach us 24/7 at (319) 362-2174 or 1-800-332-4224.
Together, we can save lives.