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How do you handle a suicide notice comment on your site?

5:16 am on Feb 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

We had a first today. A new member posted a suicide notice after being active on our site for a few days and then closed their account.

We were made aware of it hours after the fact. We used what information we had to lookup the person's location and contacted the local police in that area. We then shared whatever we knew about the person with the police. Who in turn said they would send someone over to check on the person if they could locate them.

Did we do the right thing? I think so. But would privacy advocates feel differently?

Would anyone handle the situation differently?
5:59 am on Feb 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

You did exactly what I think should be done. IMHO, the potential saving of a life outweighs any privacy concerns.

Our policy is to remove the post from public view, PM or email them to ask if there us anyone we can contact for them. If we can we also look up and email/PM them local emergency contact details.

We also email/PM them this link and ask that they read it:

We also contact local authorities like you did - if that is possible.

What we do not do it attempt any forum of "counselling" or "therapy" by leaving the thread in public view for other forums members or staff to offer "support" or "advice" .... there is a risk of legal problems as no one involved with the forum is a licensed or registered 'therapist' or 'counseller'
1:53 pm on Feb 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Thanks for your advice. We removed the thread after realizing it had the potential to cause more harm than good with members continuing to discuss it.

Most members showed a genuine concern for the user. But we just don't want to take any chances. Like you said, none of us are trained to handle this situation, so we need to let the authorities handle it. Regardless of privacy concerns.

Thanks again.
8:44 pm on Feb 14, 2010 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There was a case many years ago in which AOL had to settle out of court in which in one of their groups, members and the moderator tried to offer advice to someone posting a suicide threat - the family sued as they were not 'licensed' to give such advice.
5:51 pm on Feb 15, 2010 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

That is really good to know. We'll be sure to shutdown any such threads in the future as soon as we can.

Thanks again.

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