A Suicide Tweet
In the early morning hours today, I was made aware by a tweep (a friend on Twitter) that someone had tweeted that she was contemplating suicide. Her previous tweet (aka Twitter message) was that she was lonely and alone for Thanksgiving and wanted people to contact her if they were going to be alone too. Other tweeps were both alarmed and concerned, wanting to do something but not knowing what to do. The tweep in distress was in the USA and the concerned tweeps were in places like the United Kingdom and Australia.
After a few moment of shock and another few moments of contemplation, I decided to get involved and try to help this tweep.
What You Need to Know About Me
I have a sister who lives with chronic depression. I hadn't heard from her in a few years, but in 2003 she called me out of the blue and asked to meet me for lunch. During the meal, she asked me if I would take care of her cats if anything happened to her. This raised a red flag raised and I asked her if she was thinking of killing herself.
When she finally admitted that she was, I convinced her she needed help and took her to the psychiatric emergency room so she could get the assistance she needed.
Trying to Help a Tweet
As I have mentioned before here, I am a retired social worker. While it as not my obligation to get involved in these type of situations, I nevertheless decided that a suicide tweet was a plea for help. I felt compelled to try and respond.
Long story short, through the wonders of the privacy-depriving Internet, I found a way to contact a member of this tweep's family and send them a copy of the troubling tweet. And when another tweep told me the name of the city where they thought this despondent tweep lived, I looked up the number of the police department in that city and called them.
All along, I was corresponding with a concerned tweep in another country. When I reported to them what I had done, I was harassed by another tweep who said that what I had done was wrong and suggested that I was violating this person's right to kill themselves.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
Let me be clear. I did not do what I did to be a hero or because I wanted anything in return. I responded to what I thought was a cry for help, in a manner consistent with my training, all along making it clear I was a concerned stranger, acting as a Good Samaritan.
That said, I absolutely did not think I would be scolded, chastised and harass for trying to help. I was completely taken aback, quite shaken and very upset.
Despite the criticisms, the people I contacted about this suicide tweet took my reports seriously. I received two call-backs from the police who were desperately trying to find the despondent tweep so they could go out and conduct a health and welfare check. The family member also emailed me back, letting me know they were aware of the situation and that there was a family member with the tweep. When I told the family member that I had contact the police, they agreed to call the officer as well.
Suicide Is an 911 Emergency
Research shows that most people who commit suicide do so in a moment of despair. Many struggle with mental health problems. Many are overwhelmed by their circumstances and in a moment of hopelessness, they think death is the only solution. Troubled and drowning in pain and sorrow, they make a tragic decision that, if they are successful, can not be reversed. They come to an emotionally-charged conclusion that will have a profound impact on everyone they know.
I firmly believe that suicide is not the answer. I believe that people professing suicidal thoughts or communicating that they have a suicide plan are in need of emergency psychiatric treatment. I believe that suicide is a 911 emergency, period.
Taking a Stand Against Suicide
Now that the crisis seems to have passed and I have reflected on the events of the day, I have decided that, presented with this situation again, I would do this again. If someone I know through social media brings to my attention someone's intention to kill themselves, I will stand up and do what I can to alert people who can intervene and help them.
I am taking a stand again suicide. I encourage you to join me.
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline - (800) 273-TALK (8255)
- National Institute of Mental Health - Suicide Prevention
- National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Suicide (this organization supports family members and friends of those living with mental illness)