Police use Facebook to Stop Teen Suicide

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Police intercepted a teenager who posted a suicide threat on Facebook by reaching out to him on the social network, reports NBC News.

After the suicidal teenager posted “I am thinking about jumping” alongside photos of the George Washington SuicidePreventionBridge on Tuesday afternoon, a concerned friend contacted the police. (The New York-New Jersey bridge is infamous for suicide attempts, with 43 in 2012 alone.)

The Port Authority Police Department’s Lt. Thomas Michaels and Sgt. Nadine Rhem found the teen’s profile and reached out with a plea to call their precinct, while also distributing his Facebook photos to officers patrolling the bridge.

Amazingly, the teen, riding on a public bus nearby, called the police department two hours after the Facebook response was sent.

“I picked up and heard it was him and I almost fell out of my chair,” Michaels told NBC News.

Michaels and the teen spoke for about 10 minutes and they arranged to have police meet the bus at the next stop. The 18-year-old volunteered to be taken to a hospital for evaluation.

Although the police often use social media to verify threats and gather background information, this was the first time the precinct had ever used it to reach out to someone and save them.

In other instances of social media preventing suicide, Facebook itself partners with the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline to help concerned users report threats they see online.

Facebook Suicide ReportingFrom Dr. Regina Benjamin, 18th Surgeon General of the United States on the partnership with Facebook: “Preventing suicide is everyone’s business. Nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day, and in the past year, more than eight million Americans 18 or older had thought seriously about suicide. As members of a family, a school, business, neighborhood, faith communities, friends, and our government, we all need to work together to solve this problem.  We simply can no longer allow those we live, work and play with to ever believe that suicide is an acceptable solution even in the worst of times.”

Monitoring for threats, key phrases and other online conversations can be exceptionally daunting, but with the right tools and training, officials, schools and other organizations can often isolate message geography.  As an example of learning to search social media for key terms, go to http://search.twitter.com and type in the phrase “our school is in lockdown.” Revealing?

If you would like to learn more about Monitoring for your school, organization or business, contact us.

Related Video

On the Road to Suicide Prevention

Suicide is one of the world’s greatest public health crisis. It impacts the workplace, schools, military, and families.


This recorded webinar features Suzy Loughlin and Special Guest Dr. Kelly Posner, Firestorm Expert Council Member and founder and Principal Investigator of the Center for Suicide Risk Assessment at Columbia University/New York State Psychiatric Institute. Suicide is now the 2nd leading cause of death for individuals under 25. Suicide is integrally linked to the issue of school and workplace shootings. In this recorded session, we discuss how to raise awareness, what the warning signs are, what are the strategies and steps you can take towards prevention.

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