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Why Do People Threaten Suicide on Facebook?
Facebook is a great place to share photos of your latest meal or every step your child has ever taken, but sometimes people use the social media site to express their intentions to commit suicide. Natasha Tracy explains more on the subject, including when to take threats seriously.
Today, 1-in-13 people on Earth have a Facebook account and half of them are logged in on any given day. In North America, 71.2 percent of the United States web audience is on Facebook. People find out about the news, post photos, and share their lives on Facebook.
Oh, and they post suicide threats.
Suicide Threats on Facebook
I have no official stats on suicide threats on Facebook as no one knows how many suicide threats are made daily without notice or care. What I can tell you, though, is that I have seen many people wanting to die on Facebook and several people threatening to do just that.
And these people are not alone. News story after news story talks of people who announced their suicide on Facebook before turning it into a reality. And most of the time, no one helps.
Why Do People Post Suicide Threats?
This is a tricky one but I think there are two main reasons.
First, people live their lives online now. In fact, 57 percent of people talk to people more online than they do in real life. Many people consider Facebook to be a very real part of their very real life and so when something with the gravity of suicide is being considered, it’s almost natural to put it in the same place you put your thoughts on breakfast and information about your dad’s funeral.
Secondly, people don’t want to commit suicide. People don’t want to die. I know this seems contrary to a suicide threat, but really, people just want their pain to end. It’s not that they want death, it’s that they don’t want pain. What the person really is asking for is for help from someone to relieve their suffering.
Are Suicide Threats on Facebook Real?
Some people suggest that by very virtue of the fact that the suicide threat is online, the person isn’t serious about it, but this clearly isn’t true. Many people reach out for help before committing suicide and, in fact, most have seen a doctor in the month prior to their suicide. People who are very serious about dying do reach out for help every day.
And while some people may post a suicide threat because find it “funny” to see people scramble at the threat of suicide, this is a rarity.
Should You Take Suicide Threats on Facebook Seriously?
Yes. You absolutely should. There is no reason in the world for you not to. Whether you think the person is really going to follow through or not you have no right to take that chance in a life-or-death situation. How would you feel if you were wrong? How would you feel if that person did end up dead all because you thought their pain was a “joke” or “just dramatics?”
What to Do About Suicide Threats on Facebook
The most important thing to do with serious suicide threats is to report them to a suicide hotline or the police—no exceptions. You need to get professionals involved. Let those people whose job it is to help determine the veracity of the claim. Let them talk to the individual. Let them sort out the reality. That’s not your job. Your job is just to ensure that a professional is notified.
And if you’re worried that your friend might be mad at you for involving professionals? Well, it’s like this. If I saw you having a heart attack on the street, I would call 9-1-1. And if later, you hated me for it, I could live with myself. If I didn’t call, and something horrible happened to you, I couldn’t.
Please see here for more on what to do if someone threatens suicide on Facebook.