Date: Friday, March 23, 2012
I just returned home from doing an interview about a very touchy subject. This is something that anyone who has been using social media for any length of time has probably encountered and if you haven't, you will.
"I'm going to kill myself."
The indication of suicide under any circumstance is difficult to deal with at the best of times, but the when those indications appear in the social space, it only exasperates the problem. How you may gain the knowledge of a suicide can come in several different ways:
* You may see it
* It may be pointed out to you
* It may be sent to directly to you
No matter how it happens, it presents some very unique challenges. First off, you are the police/law enforcement and you have a duty to act. There is no sloughing this one off. You have to do something.
Is the threat credible? Is the person a frequent flyer of the suicide threat? Was there a means mentioned? Is there a location? Short answer... doesn't matter. The threat has to be taken seriously. But what do you do? How many road blocks are there that have to be overcome?
* Where is the person located
* Can you confirm an identity
* Do you have the resources to chase a potential "needle in the haystack"
* Are your people informed of what action to take, people to notify
The reality is that you must do something. You can't simply sit back and let the threat go by. I've dealt with several of these and I can tell you there are no textbook methods.
Determining identity and location are probably the two most difficult challenges if the person is using a pseudonym identity and not providing a location within their account.
In the past I've looked through a person's history of posts to determine location. I've looked at the people they have interacted with, interests they have mentioned... anything to help determine who they are or where they are located. I've reached out to their friends to see if they can connect (without raising attention to the suicide issue).
There are a couple of great resources that you can turn to for assistance. Specifically within Twitter and Facebook, since those are the two platforms that I've seen this issue occurring the most within.
The following is taken directly from Twitter's Law Enforcement Page (http://support.twitter.com/articles/41949-guidelines-for-law-enforcement#
How To Make an Emergency Request
To make an emergency request, please email email@example.com
, which we continuously monitor; you will receive an automated response that you must reply to in order for us to see your report (NOTE: our support system removes all attachments, please include the contents in the body of the message). Alternatively, fax your request to: 1-415-222-9958.
Please be sure to include the Twitter username and URL (e.g., @safety
) of the subject account, the nature of the emergency, any specific Tweets
you would like us to review, and all other available details including how information from us may be necessary to prevent that emergency.
Twitter will assist with any information that they have, but they are face with the same limitations we all face. They can only work with the information they have available.
Location and identity are usually easier to deal with in Facebook, provided people have used their real information.
To save you some time searching, here is the link to report suicidal posting on Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/help/contact_us.php?id=305410456169423
The disclaimer right in the first line says it all..."If you have encountered a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, please immediately contact law enforcement or a suicide hotline."
The other resource that Facebook offers is an international listing of "Suicide Prevention Agency Resources" (https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=125598467519396
I've only covered the two big players with this post. If you are using any other platforms, it is incumbent upon you to ensure you understand and are aware of any and all information that could have an impact on how you operate in that social platform.
As law enforcement you have resources available to assist a great deal with helping others. You also have a paramount duty to protect life. You DO NOT have the luxury of saying, "Oh well, there’s nothing I can do."
There is always something you can do.