A woman described her final moments of purposely inhaling poisonous fumes on Facebook to nine friends, some of whom begged her stop, reports the Associated Press. Some of those friends attempted to track her down on their own, according to the report.
None of them called the police however, or alerted anyone at all.
Claire Lin, 31, of Taipei, Taiwan died on March 18. "Too late. "My room is filled with fumes," read Lin's final post. "I just posted another picture. Even while I'm dying, I still want FB [Facebook]. Must be FB poison. Haha."
"Be calm, open the window, put out the charcoal fire, please, I beg you," one friend wrote Lin, who was found by her boyfriend the following morning. Lin's family only found out about the online conversation after her death. A sociologist quoted in the AP article ascribed the incident to isolation in the Internet age. But as with all such unfortunate stories, the reason is never this simple.
"People may have doubts about what they see on the Internet because of its virtual nature, and fail to take action on it," Chai Ben-rei, a sociologist at Taiwan's Feng Chia University, told the AP. Failure to act among friends and loved ones who are faced with suicidal threats is not new to Facebook or even the Internet, however. People in real life are often reluctant or unaware of how to respond.
With Facebook expanding the center of our social life, we increasingly encounter the same fraught issues that stymie us face-to-face.
Such seems to be the case in December 2010 when Simone Back, 42, was found dead in her apartment in Brighton, England following her final message on Facebook: "Took all my pills be dead soon bye bye everyone." In a discussion that continued for 148 messages underneath Back's final post, some friends begged for her address, others taunted her. But no one reached out to Back until her mother, Jennifer Langridge, phoned the police after receiving a text message about her daughter's message 17 hours after it was posted.
"Most people who die by suicide give some indication, in terms of exhibiting these warning signs," Lidia S. Bernik, associate project director of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline told msnbc.com "All too often, those around them are not knowledgeable and they don't react, and they might have had an opportunity to save a life and didn't know it."
As people grow more comfortable with sharing their feelings online, social media provides opportunity to identify and reach out to those at risk.
"We are deeply saddened by the tragic death of Claire Lin and our hearts go out to her family and friends," a Facebook spokesperson told msnbc.com.
"This case serves as a painful reminder of how people can help others who are in distress or need assistance. We encourage them to notify us, and we work with third-party support groups including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center to reach out to people who may need help. In the case of an emergency, please call the appropriate authorities immediately. Our Family Safety Center also contains resources on how to help people who are in danger of harming themselves, and users can find more info here."
As part of the ongoing effort to educate the public, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline partnered with Facebook last year and now augments the social network's crisis response.
Facebook users are able to report suicidal comments they see posted by Facebook friends via either the Report Suicidal Content link or the "report" links found throughout the site. Upon receiving the information, Facebook immediately sends an email encouraging the reported user to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The user is also provided a link for a confidential chat with a National Suicide Prevention Lifeline crisis counselor.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline hotline service is available only to Facebook users in the United States and Canada. But the Facebook Help Center provides links to suicide prevention agencies in other countries.
Here's what the NSPL and Facebook say about help:
There are two ways to report a suicidal user to Facebook itself. You may either report it when you are scrolling on the suicidal user’s comment, or from the Facebook Help Center. Click here for specific instructions. Once a user is reported to Facebook for posting suicidal content, the content is reviewed by the Facebook Safety Team. If appropriate, Facebook will respond directly to the user via e-mail indicating that someone on Facebook is concerned about their safety and encourage the user to call the Lifeline and/or enter a confidential chat session with a crisis counselor.
How can I chat with the Lifeline on Facebook?
Right now our chat is only for people who have been reported as posting suicidal content to Facebook. If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide please call 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
Is the Lifeline Facebook Chat confidential?
Once a user is reported to Facebook for posting suicidal content, the content is reviewed by the Facebook Safety Team. If appropriate, Facebook will respond directly to the user via e-mail indicating that someone on Facebook is concerned about their safety and encourage the user to call the Lifeline and/or enter a confidential chat session with a crisis counselor. If the user chooses to enter chat, he or she will be redirected to a site hosted by the Lifeline. Security controls, including encryption and authentication, are in place to ensure the protection of any information submitted via chat. Additionally, the user who is given the opportunity to chat does not have to disclose any identifying information.
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