What to do if a Person Threatens Suicide on Facebook

What to do if a Person Threatens Suicide on Facebook

Facing Suicide Threats on Social Media

I’m pretty connected on Facebook, Twitter and on social media in general. I have to be. It’s important for my career.

And as such I have almost 20,000 followers on various platforms. This is a whole lot of people to be exposed to on a daily basis. And due to my profession, I run into many people with mental illness on my Facebook, Twitter and other feeds. And sometimes the people on these feeds are in distress. Distressed to the point where they threaten suicide.

But what do you do if someone threatens suicide on Facebook, Twitter or otherwise?

Turning Your Back on Suicide Threats

What to do about Suicide Threats

Many people don’t take suicide threats seriously. For example, last Thursday a woman on my feed threatened suicide quite dramatically and, to the best of my knowledge, her thousand “friends” didn’t initially respond. I can’t say why but I do know that many people consider online suicide threats to be meaningless.

Or so they say.

I believe if they thought about it for a minute, they would realize that a woman with a knife and pills who says “she is going to die today” is pretty damn serious. I believe that people turn their back on suicide threats simply because they don’t want to be bothered. They don’t want to get involved in someone else’s life or death struggle.

OK, I get that. But I ask you, how could you possibly live with yourself if you ignored her plea and then she did end up dead after all? What kind of person does that make you, exactly?

What to Do About Facebook Suicide Threats

I would ask the people please, please do not ignore suicide threats on Facebook and elsewhere. Suicide threats should always be taken seriously. Half of all people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide and up to one-in-five successfully complete a suicide so please, these threats are not words to take lightly.

In the case of Facebook suicide threats:

  1. Reach out to the person and ask them if they are alright. Ask them if they are getting help.
  2. Give them the information on suicide hotline numbers.
  3. There is an optional third step here – report the suicide threat to Facebook.

If the person responds and says they are getting help or that they do not intend to attempt suicide, you have done your job. Always encourage they seek professional help and tell them they are not alone.

If the person doesn’t respond or responds saying that they will kill themselves:

  1. Ask them where they are.
  2. Tell them that you have to contact the authorities to get them help.
  3. Call a suicide hotline number or the police to report the suicide threat to the professionals.
  4. Give all the information you have to the professionals including any information the person has on their Facebook page about their phone number, address, current location or anything else that might help find the person.
  5. Tell the person that you have called for help and continue to encourage them to reach out to a professional.

Yes, Call the Authorities for Facebook Suicide Threats

Yes, I said you should call the professionals when a person makes a threat of suicide on Facebook. This is because:

  1. You don’t know how serious the person really is. You need to take them at their word as you have no reason not to.
  2. You are not a suicide counsellor – don’t try to be one. Let the professionals handle it as they know how to do it correctly and how to draw in other agencies as need be.
  3. You need to not get emotionally invested in another person’s life that you completely cannot control. Believe me. These situations can tear you up and your own mental health is important too.

Other Possible Actions to a Facebook Suicide Threat

A couple of other things you may want to consider – but only if you’ve taken the above steps and you feel comfortable doing it:

  1. Engage the suicidal person in conversation until the professionals get there.
  2. Contact family members or close friends of the person who made the suicide threat as they are likely far more capable of helping than you are.

Remember – All Suicide Threats are Real, Even on Facebook

Too many people needlessly die from mental illness and emotional distress. Don’t turn your back on a person whose life you could save with one phone call.

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