Suicide Talk

In Times of Life or Death: Suicide in the Blogging Community

As some of you are likely already aware. one of our fellow members of the mental health blogging community attempted suicide earlier today, and posted a suicide note on her blog.  I choose not to link to her blog here because for those of you who aren’t already familiar with her amazing work, I don’t want to introduce you to her at her most desperate moment.

When you see that Tweet

I saw it about an hour after it was posted, and my heart started pounding as I wondered what the hell I was going to do.  I flailed around feeling powerless for a bit before realizing that her Twitter page stated where she lived.  I called the police there, and they said they’d already made contact with her.

I then saw that I’d gotten a message from one of her Twitter followers, who had made the initial contact with police that resulted in them getting to her in time (thankfully; who knows, this may not have been the case if mine had been the first contact).  The police were able to get to her and get her much needed help because there was sufficient identifying information in her online accounts for them to figure out who and where she was.

Anonymity and crisis

That got me thinking.  Many of us value our anonymity, and very deliberately choose not to put identifying details about ourselves online  And at the same time, many of us do experience thoughts of suicide at times due to our illnesses.  If we, in moments of desperation and hopelessness, were to publish our intentions or actions with respect to suicide, would fellow bloggers who wanted to help us be able to figure out how?

WordPress doesn’t have a lot to say about the matter.  In their page on “Self-harm and online safety“, they suggest calling the authorities if you know the person, and posting suicide resource information for them if you don’t.  You can “report content“, but it doesn’t sound like this is likely to accomplish much, if anything.

Tracking someone down

Thinking about myself, the city where I live is displayed on my Twitter account.  I don’t use my full name, but I’ve done some guest posts under my full name, and that probably wouldn’t be too hard to find.  That would mean my first, middle, and last names would be available, plus I’m already in the local police system as an “emotionally disturbed person” (police jargon for contacts they have with someone with mental health problems), so they’d probably track me down fairly quickly.  I’m not sure how comfortable I feel with that, to be honest.

Being on the other end, as a fellow blogger wanting to help, the feeling of powerlessness is terrifying.  The desperate desire to help crashes headfirst into having no idea where to even start.  In this particular instance, enough pieces were there, but what if that wasn’t the case?

I’m not sure what the answer is, or if there even is an answer.  We can hope this is an issue that won’t come up very often, but I think the reality is that it’s inevitable that sometimes it will arise.  It’s probably better that we start to think about it when we’re not trapped in the darkest depths, and consider how many crumbs of information we’/re prepared to dole out, and much power we are willing to offer to our fellow bloggers to help us if things get really bad.

Note: Sue survived, and wrote a book about her experience. You can read my review of Shame Ate My Soul.

Straight talk on suicide - graphics of phoenix and semicolon

The Straight Talk on Suicide page covers a variety of topics related to suicide, including getting help and safety planning, from the perspective of someone who’s been there.

Visit the MH@H Resource Pages hub to see other themed pages from Mental Health @ Home.

40 thoughts on “In Times of Life or Death: Suicide in the Blogging Community”

  1. I was definitely cursing my inability to comment when I read her post. I wanted to ask if she were okay and then to provide what little defining details I had, in hopes they’d help. But damn WP kept eating my comments. I’m so incredibly relieved she had more information on Twitter though. I’m thankful to the person who made the call. And thankful for you for making that connection and sharing the outcome.

  2. I think WP is eating my comments again. But I wanted to say thank you for providing a follow up. I saw her post about ten minutes after you and felt so powerless to help.

  3. Just checking to see if I can comment when I’ve switched to this site. If so, thank you for providing follow-up on her situation. I was worried.

  4. OMG! This is horrible!! I don’t know the person in question, but please forward my kindest regards, thoughts, and prayers. πŸ™

    You are so great to be so proactive and caring!! I admire your forthright attitude. This is sad. πŸ™

  5. I don’t believe I know the blogger, but please if you get a chance to talk to them during these dark times send them my support and thoughts. As a person who suffers with mental illness and has most of my life, I know how scary and alone you can feel at times. I hope the wordpress or twitter community reaches out in this desperate time of need and reminds her she is not alone.

    As for information. I share very little, if at all. I rarely even share my first name and I am okay with that, comfortable. I use to be a lot more open and even say dangerous with my online activity. There was a time (most of my late teens and into my early twenties) which I have yet to share on a post yet I had kind of an internet addiction. Like it was unhealthy and yes made me vulnerable etc. I don’t want to go into too much detail but basically after deleting every social media account, quitting chat rooms and all that stuff. I have only and now still only use wordpress. That is as far as my online activitity goes now besides online research or job hunting etc. lol I made kind of a promise to come back with more of a healthier approach from my uses and also be very aware. I am not really here to make friends I am, but I am not. Like that addiction needs to stay behind me of chat rooms and online drama and sharing too much secrets or information. I live my life in my real life now and wordpress is to connect to people like me, but still more so to share my writings,get feed back and yes reach out in a way to those like me. But that is as far as it goes. I don’t give out email addresses, my name etc anymore. I want to remain anonymous because as many psychos as our society has, the internet has a lot more where they can easily hide. As for what information or what we should do. I am not comfortable with the government or police being able to stalk me if need be or have all my info etc. I think if it was a serious problem you can report the profiles and trust me the cops or government will be able to find them because they are that creepy. I don’t know if it is a good or a bad thing, it is good in perhaps situations like this so this girl could get the help she needed. When it comes to security and it is not just the government. Nothing is secure anymore and we do not have freedoms. Your phone isn’t and the internet most definitely isn’t. Don’t get me started. πŸ˜›

      1. Yes a lot of food for thought for sure! I haven’t seen Snowden I don;t think I will have to check it out. I once watched a documentary where people showed how easy it was to stalk people on facebook even private profiles (and people who aren’t careful just think how many people create fake profiles) and how they just stalk your status and can find you that way etc. It was very scary stuff. It did scare me literally. I am like I got lucky with how stupid I use to be with my online activity. lol Why I am against people who post iffy picturs and then complain how creepers found their pictures and commented. I am like most of the time guys don;t send each other bathing suit pictures, why do girls? And why on the internet? This stuff is not safe and especially if you aren’t making your stuff private. I am not saying they ask for it, but it is like some people don’t realize how scary the internet actually is. People who post vulnerable moments of their children too I always cringe at. Like urg if my parents did this crap to me as a kid I’d be livid. They have embarassing pictures of me but they are not online they are safe in family photo albums. πŸ˜› If a half ass hacker (you don;t have to be that computer savvy to track IP addresses. Like if I wanted to I am sure I could figure it out and I am not computer savvy at all) you dont think the government with all the tools and technology can’t track you? I am more scared of the crazies though. As much as I am against our freedoms being rained on etc, the crazy people scare me the most. We need to do more especially for the children and teens of today with their online activity. Our society is now very scary. My cousin is super computer savvy as well and things he knows and can do if he wanted is horrible and creepy. He of course doesnt, but knows his stuff as he is super computer nerd. If he ever used his power for evil though he would risk his career in programming etc. lol But yes it’s very scary stuff.

  6. That was a terrible feeling this morning. I felt so helpless with even saying please call 911. My hope is that she is getting the help that she deserves. My heart has been heavy all day. Im glad you were able to get identifying information from Twitter.

  7. Wow this is such a tough situation to be in. I don’t believe I know the blogger but I really hope she’s doing okay. You absolutely did the right thing and that’s incredibly inspiring, thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. Sending lots of love to both you and her❀

  8. Hi Ashley, I have managed to locate the hospital Sue is at, I phoned and left a messaged that people are thinking of her, I also told her to get in touch if she wishes. the hospital Ould not give any information out, but I hope she is doing Ok 😒

  9. I thank God that, this person was helped without much time lost! I am so happy this person gets to be here because it makes a difference!This got me really thinking, first of all there is no such a thing as a suicide helpline in my country, you could probably call the police but that doesn’t work much in Africa, second i don’t there is any possible way anyone would locate me if they didn’t know me personally, third i cant even start to talk about how much stigma there is in third world countries to even attempt to post something related to mental health in Publicly!

  10. This is terrifying. Do I want one of you to be able to reach me if I need? I don’t know. I think I do. One of you has my phone number because of Whatsapp. It is my direct line if I know nobody else will get something weird on my mind. I had not thought of suicide though.

  11. I am probably as extreme as they go on privacy. I use a pseudonym, I strip photos of identifying details and don’t list a location. It’s the only way I feel comfortable speaking out given my trauma past. When I first started my blog, I went so far as to try and change little details and timelines to obscure my identity to anyone who might know me on person and only post from public computers with IP obscuring. (Data scientist with too much training in medical records privacy for her own good and all.) That got old really fast, after I poured over WP’s privacy statement and found that no one is going to go to the lengths it takes to track me down unless WP receives a subpoena, or there’s evidence someone is actively suicidal. I thought a bit about how that could be scary to readers if/when I wrote a dark post, so my compromise was to post a general “things get dark sometimes, but I’m not actively a threat to myself” explanation on my about me. If it does ever get that bad while I blog, I live with someone who would take care of me and kind of have decided that’s not the time to be blogging. I wouldn’t want to put that on any reader knowing the work it would take to track me down IRL means WP wouldn’t be a viable way to ask for help. I’ve been on the other end of a vast space wondering if I was going to get a call from the police with news that someone I cared about was either hurt by someone else or themselves. I’d hope I wouldn’t put an active crisis note out there without a way to be helped, but in cases where there is enough evidence to go on to get someone help, I’m glad WP is a resource. You and that Twitter user did a good thing, especially knowing what it feels like to have been there yourself. That post brought up some issues for me, as it has always been scarier for me to remember the fear of losing someone else than to not fear what might happen to me. I read the post after it was clear help had been received. It would have been so much worse to read it not knowing. I might write someday about my experiences of waiting and wondering, because it seems like not enough is written by those who both have mental health issues and also have experiences of living the fear that can come from worrying about others’ mental health at the same time. I wouldn’t for some time, though, as we all need to both be honest and compassionate with ourselves about the fact that reading someone else’s story of going through a mental health crisis can be a bit traumatic for those with similar experiences in their own lives and also that the story belongs first and foremost to the person experiencing the current crisis and we need to intervene if we can to help or else step away and not coopt someone else’s story. I do think it’s really important you both intervened and found a way to post about the broader trauma implications for the WP mental health community that was genuine and respectful to author and readers’ various lived experiences and raised an important topic of conversation.

  12. It’s something that is a part of being in a mental health-focused community. We are more likely to attempt suicide and sometimes we die. I believe everyone has its path and some of us will not make it. I hope she is okay now. I don’t know who you are talking about but I hope she gets the help she needs to overcome this.

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