December 24, 2013

How to Help Someone Online Who Appears to be Suicidal

suicide prevention lifeline

Encountering someone on the Internet who appears to be suicidal can be a scary and overwhelming experience. It is normal to feel powerless when we encounter such a person. You want to help, but what can you do? You might not even know the person in real life, and they could live far away from you. It may be impossible to know what sort of local resources are available in their area. Fortunately, you may have at least one option you might not have realized.

If you live in the United States, you should know about the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, a project of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The Lifeline has a page offering suggestions for how to help someone you encounter online who appears to be suicidal, and it includes information about how to report someone as potentially suicidal on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms. I'd make sure to pass the number for the lifeline along to the person as the first step before making a report, but it is not hard to imagine circumstances where reporting could be helpful too.

I encourage you to bookmark this resource. You never know when you might need it, and it could help save a life. Unlike "thoughts and prayers," this is something tangible you can use to make a difference in someone's life. Just think of all the people who might still be around if someone had tried to help when they needed it most.

And if you should you ever find yourself in one of these situations, don't forget to seek support for yourself as well. These are almost always emotionally taxing situations for everyone involved. They are not the kind of thing any of us should try to deal with by ourselves.