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Suicide threat

By a member of my community -- what to do



9:51 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I run an online interactive community, and one long-time member has threatened suicide.

Any suggestions?


10:04 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Is there a suicide hotline in your area? Try calling them. They should have better advice about what to do than you can probably get here.


10:05 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you have the member's physical address, I'd forward the threat/note to his/her local police department and let it go from there.


10:09 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Unless it is the topic of your forum, not a lot.

You can - and should - encourage them to seek help. But whether it's genuine or attention-seeking, your forum is an inappropriate place.

You are not a professional*; you should not get involved - or allow your members to. A suicidal threat needs professional help. There has been a recent case where forum members failed to help - and may have encouraged - a webcam suicide.

Take the thread off public view; sticky the member and urge them to seek appropriate help; explain that you are simply not the place to be. Suggest Samaritans or your local equivalent.

*Forgive me if I'm wrong; but I don't think you'd be posting this here if you were!


11:06 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member suzyuk is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

feeling responsible is a weird old thing, follow the advice above, pass the buck or pass onto a helpline that can cope better

if you're still concerned ...preserve your own sanity and then trust yourself (even though it feels out of worldish..!)

unfortunately (from experience) I have to say that suicide as in the real thing will hit you no matter what you think, say or do, but as long as you can justify or reason your actions, that should be MORE than enough - right or wrong decision on your behalf.. if it does happen you have to be able to live and if you can also justify your actions then that is all that matters!

I seriously doubt that you will have others questioning your actions/motives should the worst happen, after the fact. Suicide when/if it happens - is usually much more than a cry for help.. follow the cry if you will, but do not live or self-destruct by it. and certainly don't destruct your forum because of it! Life is life exasperating as it can be at times ;)



11:10 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've contact the local Samaritans and they suggested that the person just be encouraged to call them directly.

Initially I thought this was a serious cry for help.
1) This is a long time member. There have been no other warning signs.
2) The member came to the community at this time looking to unburden herself of an obligation and to find care for her charges, the tying up of loose ends

On top of that one of my members is a veteran emergency services dispatcher and PMd me: "This has all the hallmarks of a person who is serious."

I do know the area where this person is; the IP address hasn't changed in 2 months. Should I contact her local police department and give'em a link and the IP address and let them try to get the address info from the ISP (a cable company)?


11:29 pm on May 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member quadrille is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I would; but also encourage her to call the samaritans, if only to chat. They do a good job.

[added:] be straight with her; tell her that you honestly don't know what to say, but you value her input and your friendship, and you'd feel a lot better if she'd speak, even just briefly, to someone who may be able to offer an alternative. (adjust according to how things are!).

[edited by: Quadrille at 11:33 pm (utc) on May 10, 2007]


3:29 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Almost any action is better than no action. I know of
people who ignored the clear warning signs with dire

I wont attempt to add anything to those who have posted before me, but if you could find family members they
should be the ones who would be concerned the most and
see to some follow through action.

I pray for the best results. KF


6:35 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member beedeedubbleu is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I lost a family member through suicide almost 11 years ago and I can tell you that a tremendous sense of guilt is experienced by all those left behind.

"What could I have done to prevent this?"

"If only I had ...", etc.

Unfortunately as the owner of the community you have been drawn into this involuntarily. As the others have advised you must report it to the police then (whatever the outcome) you have done all you could be expected to do. It is beyond your control and clearly not your fault.


7:59 am on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member marcia is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I've contact the local Samaritans and they suggested that the person just be encouraged to call them directly.

They're wrong if they suggested that you call her. You have to protect your own interests legally and you aren't licensed or qualified.

I worked as a chatroom bouncer/mod for a very large, supportive women's commmunity (with "corporate" and legal eagles and all) and there was no involvement allowed in suicide cases. They just needed to be sent for professional help.

I remember one case of a potential suicide (very clearly announced, and I was summoned in by another member by PM). She had a serious drinking problem and her husband was going to take the kids and leave her.

I did nothing more than TOS allowed, which was to show her caring compassion and tell her she wasn't alone with that problem, and suggested she go to AA - including giving her a link, and an Alanon link for her DH. No counsel beyond that, she promised, said thank you profusely with hugs.

An official report was made, chat logs included (again, legal protection), and and that was the last heard of that problem in chat.

[edited by: Marcia at 8:13 am (utc) on May 11, 2007]


3:03 pm on May 11, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for all of everyone's suggestions.

Marcia, I think you misunderstood; Samaritans suggested that the depressed person be directed to call the Samaritans directly. I've changed the pronouns and italicized for clarity. Sorry I was so unclear.

I could care less about financial legal obligations or legal eagles though. I want to do what is right.

The best advice I read, the one that hit home was SuzyUK's... It lit a fire under my buttocks; she's right -- the only thing I had to lose by getting involved was that member's opinion of me, I had everything in the world to gain by taking action. I did.

I contacted the local police department; without her last name and/or address and/or phone number they refused to take any action. They refused to request that the cable company provide her information. I contacted another government agency because I had some other info about her that might make it possible to track her down via public records. I ran into a roadblock of 9 to 5 workers at the end of their shift.

I contacted the local suicide lines, one was a 9-5 line, believe it or not, the rest were totally unhelpful.

Finally, one of the other members in my community was able to locate her last name through a connection to the community, on another site. That was an amazing-yet-obvious approach, I am embarrassed I didn't think of it first. Contacting the electric company in the area, this person also convinced them (the electric company) to call the police directly with her address.

I was told the police were dispatched. I am waiting for other confirmation.

Thank you all; I will keep you posted as to the outcome, if I ever hear anything.


3:48 pm on May 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I used to be a professional forum moderator for some big sites in the UK. Our policy in cases like these varied from site to site according to what the site owners wanted, but generally it involved posting a reply to the suicide or suspected suicide threat, saying that you would like to help but are not qualified and giving the contact details for the Samaritans. If the threat seems immediate, then doing that and contacting the police seems to be the standard thing to do. One of our sites had a case like this and the site owners contacted the police, who contacted the police in that person's country and prevented the suicide. It sounds to me like you did exactly the right thing.


6:35 am on May 23, 2007 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Just to follow up as promised.

The local police were indeed dispatched and "checked in on" our member the evening of the 10th.

That's pretty much all I can say. Thank you all for your support, it was -and is- greatly appreciated.


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