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.