Earlier tonight, we had a situation on Lockergnome where a brand-new member posted, claiming they were going to commit suicide. Many of our regular members rushed to reply, urging them to seek help and giving out the Suicide Prevention Hotline number. They handled it in absolutely the right way. However, there were a lot of questions afterwards. They wanted to know how they should handle these situations in the future. Many were very shaken by the incidence, and felt that we should be doing more to help… even demanding that we somehow locate the anonymous user via their IP address and call the authorities.
Unfortunately, there isn’t much we can do when something like this happens. We can offer encouragement and urge them to speak with a trusted adult, friend, religious leader or teacher. We can give them the appropriate hotline number. But we cannot DO more than that. We don’t know these people or their situations. We have no way of knowing if they are telling the truth or simply trying to troll our community. We don’t know where they live, nor even their age range much of the time. We can also end up getting into legal trouble if we start giving out actual advice.
Almost all of the time, these people are looking for attention. Either they find it funny to upset a community full of people or they have a deficiency in their lives they are trying to make up for. I’m told by a close friend in the medical field that people generally don’t go around warning the Internet if they are going to harm themselves – they simply do so. Yes, there’s always the chance that someone could be serious. And I would be heartbroken should that happen in our community. But I have no way of knowing if they are serious – just as you don’t.
If you ever come across a situation such as this, don’t try to “talk sense” into the other person. Don’t try to be their counselor. Don’t encourage them in any way. Simply give them a link or phone number to an appropriate help agency, and ask them to talk to someone they feel they can trust. You will have done literally all you can do at that point. The rest is in their hands.
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