Social Media

Just hours before jumping in front of a speeding train, sixteen-year-old British model Gabrielle Joseph posted on Facebook that she was going to kill herself that night. Sadly, this isn’t the first time such an event has happened.

In fact, the use of social media sites to post suicide notes has increased in numbers, with social media contacts sitting helplessly by while a fellow Facebooker states their intentions.

WhenIf a friend posts such a message on a social media site, how do you know when to intervene? Is it a cry for attention or a serious notice of intent? If you find yourself in this situation, Hhere are a few tips on how to handle itthe situation if you find yourself in it.

Facebook Measures to Help

Perhaps noticing this serious problem, Facebook has partnered with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to help Facebook users deal with suicide threats. By clicking on a link, users can report suicidal content to the site, which will then work with Lifeline to get the user help. However, it’s important to note that if the person has directly threatened suicide, you need to call 9-1-1 to get that person emergency help.

When to Listen

Certain personalities may be prone to melodramatic posts on a regular basis, leading you to wonder if the suicidal comment is just a ploy for attention. Studies that compare the difference between suicide notes related to actual attempts and false suicide notes have been conducted. One difference shown is that genuine suicide notes often reference actual people and things and put less emphasis on the person’s thoughts.

In other words, a person intending to commit suicide seems to be more concerned with saying goodbye than expressing particular emotions at that time. The word “love” also tends to fall more significantly in actual suicide notes. Still, you never really know.

What you do know is that someone has made a public cry for help and if you read it, you should respond to it personally. Don’t post a public response on the conversation. Use the site’s direct mail system to contact the person via e-mail.

If you personally know the person, ask them to call you or to contact someone close to them. If these aren’t options and you know where this person lives, call emergency services and have someone sent to the person’s house. Even if you don’t know the person’s exact address, the police in the area will likely be able to locate them and send someone out to check. It’s far better to have emergency crews show up for no reason than to do nothing and regret it later.

Watch the comments from other people on the status update. Does it seem like someone who knows this person in real life is stepping up to help? If so, join with that person to offer assistance and advice.

If You Are the Suicidal Person

While a suicidal post may bring family and friends to your aid, know that there is help for what you’re feeling. If your post is related to a genuine feeling of despair, consider contacting suicide prevention. If you feel that you’re immediately in danger of harming yourself, seek help immediately.

Hopefully, Facebook’s new tool will curtail suicide attempts. Concerned friends can simply click a link and the user will be contacted. The most important thing to do when something so serious is posted is to try to connect with the person directly as quickly as possible. However, nobody can help a suicidal person like a professionally trained counselor. By connecting the person with suicide prevention staff via chat, Facebook can help direct them to the help they need.