Member Threatens Suicide-- What to do?
December 8, 2010 10:20 AM   Subscribe

What to do if a member of a social networking website says they want to commit suicide?

We have posted links to suicide prevention, etc, but aren't sure what else we should do. The member is unknown to most. We have an email address but that's about all the info we've got.
posted by chaz to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If it's an account linked to a workplace or school, you could search for and discretely contact an HR person or an administrator. I don't know the law on such matters related to privacy, but if you seriously feel someone's life is at stake I don't know how you could be held liable.

If it's a free e-mail account, odds are incredibly bad that there's any useful personal information tied to the account, and worse that the admins of the service would be helpful in extracting it, short of a search warrant/court order situation.

The only other thing I would think to try is to contact them privately via the e-mail account and hope to start a dialogue directly.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2010

What social networking site is this? Many sites have contacts for self harm or suicide situations. This will vary from one to another. They will be able to look at the person's IP address, contact local authorities if needed, etc.
posted by kellyblah at 10:24 AM on December 8, 2010

Look among his/her contacts' names to see if there is anyone who is probably a family member. You can write a brief introductory message to them to confirm without blabbing about the suicide threats "Hi, are you a relative of _____? If so please call me at this number, I'm a friend of his and have something urgent to discuss." If the person writes back confused or isn't actually related, you can always play it off like you were writing about birthday plans or something (though chances are they have seen this person's posts as well).
posted by hermitosis at 10:29 AM on December 8, 2010

tagging onto hermitosis' good advice, anyone who has corresponded with the member in on-line discussions would be a good candidate for knowing more about them than you do, whether they're family or not.
posted by randomkeystrike at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2010

Places I've worked, if we could find their jurisdiction via a billing address or something, we'd call the police. Lacking any real-world info, though, giving them resources directly may be about all you can do.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:32 AM on December 8, 2010

kellyblah, it's a small site that I work for. We found some personal information (it's a 14 year old girl in foster care) and will be contacting the authorities. Thank you all for your answers, they were extremely helpful for us!!! Thank you AskMefi!!!
posted by chaz at 10:57 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

I saw this once, an old high school friend posted something at around 4am. I was close enough that I could get in the car and drive over to check on him. I also called the police.

For me sounding every alarm I can get my hands on is way better then not doing enough. With a lack real world info you might just be unable to do anything. For better or worse the person knows this.

I would still email every person who is connected to this person and see if anyone knows anything.
posted by Felex at 11:13 AM on December 8, 2010

I think a lot of people who threaten suicide want interaction more than they want to die. I think that ANY sort of interaction that solicits a response delays suicide. And I read somewhere, maybe in New York magazine, that suicide tends to be something that happens very suddenly within a mindset that is already ok with suicide. So even a conversation that is something like "really? what method are you thinking of? ... are you sure? do you think there's a better way to do that? ... is dying really what you want? or is it something else ... I gotta go to bed now. Do you want to talk to tomorrow?" would probably put it off.

People who want to talk about suicide talk about suicide. People who want to commit suicide commit suicide. Just keep someone talking.
posted by oreofuchi at 11:13 PM on December 8, 2010

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