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Tuesday, July 31, 2012
In the past couple of weeks, I have had very troubling experiences with those who have threatened suicide, once on Facebook and the other on Skype. Last week, my first experience was when I was scrolling through my homepage and I happened to see a post that had been forwarded by another concerned Facebook user who was deperately trying to make sure that the suicidal Facebook user was going to get help. The post I saw sounded like a transparent cry for help by a person who was in desperate pain and who apparently wanted it to end, and wanted to be stopped. The post read something like, (and I'm paraphrasing), "I hate this world. I have a knife to skick in my belly to end my life and the pills to kill and I hope to be dead by tonight."
Much disturbed, I frantically looked up the form offered by Facebook to bring to their administrators' attention suicidal users and their posts so that these users could be protected from themselves and their lives saved. I had visited this suicidal user's profile and she had not posted anything after the suicidal post. I saw a post by the other concerned user, saying to her, "-----, I will have to contact authorities unless I see that you are safe through seeing you post in here." I posted on Facebook, giving out this user's name and location and asking anyone in her area to try to steer her to resources in her area and I posted on group pages, especially ones whose causes were located in her area. After an unsuccessul attempt, I continued to dig up the form, which I recommend to anyone reading this whenever you see any suicidal content on social networks, especially on Facebook, which is easy and quick to fill out:
http://www.facebook.com/help/contact/?id=305410456169423&refid=22. And I copied and pasted the suicidal post in question. I also brought her, her post and her information to the attention of those who run the Facebook page run by the nonprofit whose nonprofit whose logo I posted here and to promote it, which they ask all their supporters to to do. The Facebook user was outside of the US so those of us who were aware of the situation and trying to help had to try to steer her to resources in her area. I was relieved to see that a certain person, in her friends list, lived in her area and was actively trying to help her. When I brought the post to Facebook's attention, I visited her profile again and others were also showing their concern and keeping in touch with me concerning her.
Soon I received an email from Facebook saying that they were aware of the situation and I was given information about resources in her area, which I posted there. As it was late at night and she had hit the "like" button on my Facebook post alerting people to her crisis, and a friend in her area was trying to get her help, I went to bed. However, the following day, when I resumed efforts to post about my petition and to gather more signatures for it, I saw another suicidal post and I visited her profile. It said something much like the one last night: "I am going to leave this world. I will swallow 200 pills and I will stick a knife in me and I hope I am dead by tonight." And she posted in the comment area: "And this is a promise." I saw another post: "I can just cry; I cannot take life anymore. I just want the pain to end." So, once again, I filled out another form and sent it to the Facebook administrators. Then I spent time on the phone, on the hotline which is on the logo pictured. The crisis counselor on the line asked me her relevant information, which I provided. And she asked me, "And what about you? Do you have any thoughts of suicide? Have you had such thoughts in the past?" I was able to mention that I was dealing with low-grade depression for most of the summer months, and that I had experienced thoughts of suicide in the past (especially during that hideous time when psychiatric medications totally altered my personality in my teens. So, based on my call, I can tell you from experience that when you call this hotline, you can expect an answer.
This experience was emotionally draining but I was satisfied that I was handling it okay and that she was going to be okay. Later, I saw a post that indicated that this Facebook user was with her friend, in her area and this meant that she was not alone. In days to come, I would visit her profile. One day, she did post, "I don't know why you all don't leave me alone; I can do what I want." A few of us posted, in the comments area, that we cared about her too much to let her "do what she wanted to do." Later, she would hit the "like" button when she saw posts and comments on her profile. And I was glad to see her post things like, "Thank you all for your caring." So, even though it was obvious that this Facebook user would need quite a bit of help to come, it seems that she is now getting it and will be okay. Thank You, God.
However, the second person I have most recently dealt with was much different and I wished that I somehow had handled it differently, and others whose feedback I sought, indicated, by their comments, that I could have handled it differenty. Everything had happened rapidly, but it was intense and was much disturbing to me because of its ambiguity, at least to me. I went to answer a friend request that was sitting on my second profile; I normally accept almost all friend requests because of my awareness efforts for my materials, especially my petition on behalf of the autism community. So I accepted this man's friend request. Soon, he appeared on Facebook Chat with me, saying things like, "No one wants to be my friend." I assured him that I wanted to befriend him.
He would ask me if I would do something "big" for him, which made me apprehensive, and I revealed this. He said, "You don't want to be friends either. You're like the rest." I assured him of my good will and that others would befriend him, if he gave them the chance. Then he said, "Please add me on Skype" and he gave me his Skype username.
In a little while, he answered my "contact request" on Skype and we began the conversation. He then said, "Why don't you have your webcam going? I want you to go on Video Chat with me. I want to see you." I told him that I did not Chat with anyone by means of video, that I was not then presentable, as I was in my pajamas, among other things and that this had nothing to do with him. He remained totally unconvinced. "Promise me that you will always be my best friend," he said. "I will always be friends, " I assured him. I was NOT prepared to pledge to a stranger unending "best friendship" but I was willing to befriend him as a person in need. We conducted most of this conversation through typing, from the beginning to the end of this conversation.
He turned on his video, even though, on Facebook Chat earlier, he had told me that he was a "disabled person," a "cripple" and could not breathe. This was getting scary; why was he going on Skype video Chat if he was unable to breathe or "barely speak," as he had earlier told me? Did he just have ulterior motives, to "come on to me" by guilt-mongering and manipulation?
"You are just like the others; you don't want to be friends or you would video chat with me and show me that you're best friends," he protested. He did not buy my reassurances: "I can't deal with this, you don't want me, I'm struggling to breathe, no one cares. I'm just going to take my morphine and be done with it, see if heaven or hell wants me."
Unfortunately, I was distraught and disturbed by this and I was unsure if this was a credible suicide threat; I did not have the suicide hotline number available. He kept saying, "Why won't you video chat with me? Why can't I see you? You said we could be best friends forever? See, you don't care, either!" And then he said, "Can't even get a friend my life's over."
He kept begging me to turn on my video so he could see me. "You think I'm a pervert and a dirty person, I know you think that of me." Despite my doubts about what or who he was at that point, I assured him that I was not judging him to be such a person, that he was taking my refusal to turn on Video Chat the wrong way.
Unconvinced, he declared, "Let's see if God wants me." Unnerved, I called on a family member and her boyfriend, and my husband, about this and they just said, "He is coming on to you, blackmailing you and bluffing you. Just delete him." But I could not just dismiss him. What if this was the real thing? I would never forgive myself! When I returned to Skype, I saw his Skype post, "I'm scared; I need your help." Frankly, I was not thinking clearly and it was late at night; I saw that he was no longer online. I typed, "I don't know if this is a cedible suicidal threat or if you are bluffing me." My husband intervened and, later, when I visited Skype, I saw that I was no longer in his contact list and again had the Skype prompt to "Add this person to your contact list," and the question mark icon where his photo had appeared only minutes ago. He has removed me from his contact list, indicating that he was angry that I was not taken in by his manipulation. And when I visited Facebook, I saw that I could not find him in a search, indicating that he had removed me from his Facebook social network, too. I did contact the National Suicide Lifeline nonprofit Facebook page, bringing him to their attention and seeking their feedback.
Feeling that I somehow had failed this person and yet seeking feedback and hping for reassurance that I had done what I could, I posted a lengthy status update about the exchange with his posts which had upset me, which I copied and pasted, posting it as a status update on my first profile. Then, knowing I needed to get to bed because of today's commitments, I retired for the night. When I woke up in the morning, I checked responses to my last night's status update on both my profiles. On the second profile, more of the responses assured me that I probably had done what I could and that the person seemed to be bluffing me. However, I got a few comments on this account, and more of such comments on my first account, that indicated that people believed that I could have done things differently, such as leaving him the suicide hotline number that is in the pictured logo, that I should have "kept him on the line," that I could have tried to get his information and contacted Facebook. One or two people stated that whether this Facebook user was bluffing or not was beside the point, that I could have and should have operated on the presumption that it was a suicidal threat, and acted accordingly.
I share these two very recent stories because I know that most of us, in person and online, will no doubt encounter people who will threaten suicide, whether it is bluffing or genuine. Yes, even though I'm fairly sure the second person I have just described was likely blackmailing me to get his own way for his own reasons, and I am unsure if I handled it properly, I know that I have no option but to leave him in God's hands and pray that he will be safe and get help for whatever his issues are that cause him to be so mentally unbalanced. And these are by no means my first or only experiences with encountering such individuals. And I'm sure that they won't be the last, sadly. As I mentioned earlier, in my teen years, I was placed on a dangerous combination of psychaitric drugs which totally altered my mental faculties, altered my personality and greatly aggravated my social issues. And during this time, which I count as the darkest years of my entire life, my total personality change resulted in behavior that makes me cringe today to even think about and which cannot be shared publicly as it would forever stigmatize me. And yes, I was deeply depressed and suicidal but it was more a cry for help. And praise God, my wonderful family and a handful of adults had tried to understand.
Besides that, other family members and another one of my friends, in-person, had threatened suicide and, while these threats fortunately were never carried out, I would have wished that my family and I had been much more educated about how to deal with suicide and how to handle people whom we suspect to be serious about ending their lives and how to get them help. However, today we have many more tools to educate ourselves about suicide and to deal with it and to get help for others or even ourselves, if we get thoughts of suicide. The National Suicidal Prevention Lifeline has a wealth of information and resources on their website which everyone reading this ought to take the time to visit: http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.
Facebook provides a wealth of national and international resources to prevent suicide:
And, again, here is the link to the form where you can bring suicidal people on social networks to Facebook's attention: http://www.facebook.com/help/contact/?id=305410456169423&refid=22
With knowledge, awareness, involvement and compassionate caring of people, suicide is preventable.