What to Do When Someone Appears Suicidal on Facebook

Someone connected to me as a friend in Facebook posted a single word on her page tonight. The word was "Suicide."

 The actual post

The actual post

To be honest I don't recall why this person connected with me as I don't remember her from high school decades ago. But I am connected with her and, like others, her post caused me concern. I couldn't ignore it.

The first 10 or so comments were pleas to her. "Can I help?" "Are you ok?" "??" "What's going on?" "We're all concerned" "Where are you?"

There was no response from the woman and the comments changed: "Can somebody message her daughter?" "Has anyone contacted her?" "Do you know her?" "I tried messaging her" "Her voicemail is full"

I took it upon myself to call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 to ask for advice. The problem was that no one really knows where this person is.

After about a minute, I spoke with someone on the Hotline and she indicated in this situation, that Facebook has a "Report Suicidal Content" function at www.facebook.com/help/contact/305410456169423 that allows users to report direct threats of suicide. I did so. As did others.

Facebook's response was "Thanks for reporting this to us. We take these situations very seriously. We'll review the information you provided and may contact the appropriate authorities to follow up on this matter. If you encounter a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, you should contact your local law enforcement or suicide prevention agency right away. If possible, you should also encourage the person who posted the content to contact their local suicide prevention agency. Please rest assured that these reports are kept confidential."

Thankfully one of the individual's friends knew the address she had moved to and contacted law enforcement. An officer is currently checking on her. No word as of yet.

As a product of the pre-smartphone days, I find it maddening to see messages like "I texted her" "I messaged her" " I sent a friend request to her daughter" etc.  Sometimes you just have to get on the phone and call. And that's what one of her friends did.

But the good news if Facebook has provided a platform for several dozen friends of this woman to work together in real time, share information and take an action.