Although threats of suicide and suicidal talk are not new phenomena, they have spread to online platforms in recent years. Making them not only more difficult to interpret and identify, but also difficult to address.
Moreover, the emotional distancing of online type can make teens feel more comfortable. Confiding their suicidal feelings in a tweet than they would normally in a face-to-face interaction. Conversely, this kind of emotional distancing can also make other teens and friends feel comfortable ignoring the cry for help. Oftentimes, readers of this kind of worrisome content rationalize it as either hyperbole or hoax.
However, regardless of the likelihood of either, every suicide threat or mention of suicidal thoughts should be taken as seriously as the potential consequences demand. It can be intimidating, or perhaps even frightening, to feel responsible for responding to the suicidal thoughts of others. Luckily, you’re not anymore alone than they are.
Suicidal thoughts and messages are being spread online. Many sites (Facebook, Twitter and others) have implemented systems that allow you to report the behavior. Authorities are notified and help is offered to the individual.
Similarly, you yourself can offer the name and number of various hotlines and lifelines that cater to suicidal teens or any number of niche issues such as sexuality or self-harm. You can also offer up in person aid in the form of either a school counselor or therapist.
If there is any indication that the teen is an immediate threat to themselves, you can and should immediately contact the police so that help can be sent right away. What is important is that the teen expressing suicidal feelings not be ignored, dismissed, or made light of. Not only because it fails to address the issue, but also it can further the mistaken belief that no one cares about them.