How can we intervene online when people have lost all hope?

by Anne Moss Rogers

Trigger warning: Emotional content

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

USA 1-800-273-8255

USA Crisis Text 741-741

USA Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Chat for the Deaf or Hearing impaired

or use a preferred relay service or dial 711 then 1-800-273-8255

My son Charles was 20 when he died by suicide on June 5, 2015. Always the funniest, most popular kid in school, he used drugs and alcohol as his antidote for numbing thoughts of suicide. It wasn’t until he was 17 that he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

After going to rehab for an addiction to heroin, my son relapsed a day later and ended up back in detox where he saw a friend and walked out. We didn’t know where he was at this point, and I didn’t see these tweets until much later. Someone sent one of them to me and I thought they meant he’d hit “rock bottom” and he’d reach out and ask for help for his addiction.

But my son’s rock bottom was suicide and I know now that these were classic signs of suicidal thinking. I wish I had called him right when someone shared this with me or gotten him to an impatient facility if I could have found where he was. I’m no longer punishing myself, however. Because I can’t control another human being and who knows if I would have been able to find him or help him.

Stunned with grief and self-blame after Charles’s death, I started a blog called Emotionally Naked in February 2016 to find healing through writing and to focus on the taboo topics of mental illness, suicide, addiction, and loss through personal stories. I missed the signs because no one was talking about it and someone needed to. I was terrified of going public, but I wrote an article about how we reacted to news of my son’s suicide called The Final 48 Hours.

A young lady named Lauren saw it shared on Facebook and sent me a message that said,

Two days ago, I thought about taking my life. Reading an article from a mother who has felt such devastating pain has changed my perspective on life…

She then reached out to her parents for help which was a turning point for me.

That blog post merely validated what she already wanted to do and that’s when I realized people who are thinking of suicide want desperately to tell. And I started to think about suicide prevention from my perspective as a digital marketing expert.

So I wrote a “how to” article on my blog for the express purpose of showing up as one of the first articles on google when people typed in a particular method of killing themselves. The purpose was to compete with other websites that offered step-by-step instruction, sometimes video, on this way to die.

My article didn’t offer instructions, but instead offered hope and resources. It took about six months before it finally landed at the top of google at #6 worldwide when those words were typed in. The first comment I ever got made me cry with joy. I couldn’t believe it worked. Part of that comment below to which I replied.