Update Jun. 14: According to the New York Times,on Tuesday Facebook officially announced it introduced new suicide prevention tools that are now available globally. Facebook also said posts flagged as potential self-harm or suicide notes will be expedited and reviewed more quickly by community operations team members who are given special training.
People across the world can now flag a message as one that could raise concern about suicide or self-harm; those posts will then come to the attention of Facebook’s global community operations team, a group of hundreds of people around the world who monitor flagged posts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Posts flagged as potential self-harm notes are to be expedited and reviewed more quickly by the team members, who also examine posts that Facebook users have reported as objectionable. Community operations team members who evaluate potentially suicidal content are given special training, Facebook said.
start with a drop-down menu that lets people report posts, a feature that was previously available only to some English-speaking users.
Seeing a friend post a cry for help on Facebook can be scary — especially if you’re unsure of what to do. But now, instead of just reporting the post to Facebook and hoping for the best, Facebook has created a new suicide prevention support tool to help those who may be feeling suicidal.
“One of the best ways to prevent suicides is to promote caring connections between people,” John Draper, executive director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, says in a video explaining the new tool. “With its newest initiative, we can leverage the Facebook community’s biggest asset to preventing suicide — and that is each other, and the support we can all provide to our friends in crisis.”
Here’s how it works:
When you see a friend’s post that seems concerning, you can click on the “click down” arrow, like you’re reporting any other content:
When prompted to choose a reason for reporting, select, “I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook.”
Next, choose “It’s threatening, violent or suicidal.”
Then, choose “suicidal content.”
Now, a menu of support options will appear on your screen:
If your friend is in immediate danger, they suggest you call emergency services right away. If it’s not an emergency, your options are:
Offer help and support: This option lets you message the person directly, with suggested text in case you’re unsure of what to say. But, you can also write your own message.
Reach out to a friend: This option prompts you to message a mutual friend or a friend who lives in your loved one’s area.
Chat with a trained helper or Call lifeline: Both these options will bring you directly to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s services, where you can either chat or talk to someone on the phone about how to best support your friend.
Ask us to look at the post: Facebook will look at the post and offer resources to the person in need. Facebook will not reveal who reported the post.
Once you’ve reported a post, the friend you’re concerned about will automatically receive a pop-up message with support options:
“In the past, our focus has been on helping Facebook members report friends… so Facebook could get their friends the help they need,” said Draper. “This new approach is not just about reporting friends in a suicidal crisis, it’s about supporting them.”
While she wasn’t your stereotypical, stuff-of-crime-dramas, visibly strung out drug addict, her demons were real nonetheless, and they threatened to take her from us long before they actually did.
That doesn’t mean she didn’t fight as hard as she could. And it doesn’t mean I’ll let her addiction define her.
Sarah was beautiful, and strong, and hilarious, with one of the biggest hearts this world has ever known. She was a voracious reader who could usually be found with her nose in the latest Harry Potter book; she talked about Hermione and Ron as if they were her own family. Her laugh was so contagious she’d have everyone in the room in hysterics before they even knew what was funny. She’d almost lose control of her body when she laughed really hard; we rated people’s jokes based on how slumped over she was in her chair, and if there were tears in her eyes when she finally managed to sit up straight.
In the last year and 10 months, I’ve seen Sarah’s smile on 10 thousand passing strangers, heard her laugh on the lips of countless others and felt my breath catch in my throat every time I realized it wasn’t her.
Because 673 days ago, while my then-fiancé and I were meeting with our wedding florist, deciding things like how many stems of succulents to put in my bouquet, my little sister killed herself.
Sometimes it feels like just yesterday my best friend’s parents knocked on my door to tell me Sarah was dead. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday when I looked out the window to see the man who would be officiating our ceremony 17 days later, walking up to my door with ghosts in his eyes. It feels like just yesterday when I opened the door, happy to see these two people who had known me since the day I was born, who could always find my smile beneath my perpetual frown, who loved me like I was their own.
Right away I realized they weren’t meeting my eyes, that they were looking anywhere but at me, that something was terribly wrong, that my world was about to be shattered as soon as they opened their mouths.
“Something really bad happened.”
“It’s your sister.”
I stood there, still as stone.
They stared at the floor.
I stood there and I waited.
“It’s Sarah. She died. She’s gone.”
I walked away, sat on my couch, tried to breathe.
“You’re kidding me, right? This is some kind of joke?”
It was April 1, after all. The day of fools.
“I wish we were, honey.”
“She killed herself, Munchie. I’m so sorry.”
And in that moment, I knew there’d been a mistake. She would never take her own life.
She would never.
“No, she didn’t.”
“Yes, sweetie, she did.”
I calmly stood, walked through my house to the downstairs powder room, and I threw up.
And then I sat on the floor and debated locking myself in there until they left. Because maybe then it wouldn’t be real.
Maybe if I just stayed in that bathroom, she would be alive.
Four days later I was standing in the receiving line at her funeral.
I stood there, feeling like a diver all of a sudden down too deep, sensing my bones slowly shattering inside my skin, trying to look anywhere but at the life-sized portrait of her that was hanging above her casket, willing myself not to break into pieces right in front of everyone.
“Pretty terrible timing, isn’t it?” someone said to me that day, because my wedding was less than two weeks away and I was standing at my sister’s funeral trying to remind myself to breathe instead of punching whoever said that in the face.
The day came and went. I never wanted to hear the phrase “she’s in a better place” ever again.
And then 17 days later, I found myself standing in front of our closest friends and family, marrying the one person who knows my true being like no one else on this Earth. Every single thought, every single detail we had visualized in the months before that day and every piece of the puzzle magically fit together. Our day was more perfect than either of us ever dreamed it could be.
If you had asked me two weeks earlier if I thought I would even be able to walk down that aisle, I would have said no. If you had asked me if I thought my family would have been able to find a way to see the sun through all of the darkness that suddenly surrounded us, I would have said there’s no chance.
But there we were.
And here we are.
Almost two years later.
The day after she died, I started writing. I posted something on my Facebook page, and I was brutally honest about her addiction. Within three days I had over 500 messages from people all over the world, sharing their stories with me, thanking me for my honesty, giving me the strength to put my feet on the ground just by sharing their souls with me.
In the following months, I found an army of love and support in a local organization called atTAcK addiction; I felt at home in the arms of people who had been right where I was, or where my sister used to be. My friends and family rallied around me and lifted me into their light instead of letting me wallow in my darkness. My husband found a way to sift through my rage and tears and instead of running away, he held me close and helped me find my smile again.
Now, I’m able to look at things in a different light. And in retrospect, maybe it wasn’t bad timing.
Let me explain. I would give anything in this world to go back to that day and stop her. I would do anything in my power to go back to that week and find a way to let her know she was stronger than her disease, that she had 10,000 reasons left to fight, that she was so incredibly loved and admired by the same people she thought had every reason to hate her for who she was when the heroin took over. I wish with every ounce of my being I could go back and tell her I still believed in her, that the world she thought had been shattered could be pieced back together, that the person she was before her addiction was still in there, and I would help her find her again.
I would have given my own life to save hers.
But everyone keeps telling me not to think that way, and I’m trying my hardest to take their advice. Every single day I have to find a way to convince myself there was nothing I could have done or said to save her from herself. I can’t spend the rest of my days fighting the “what ifs.”
And now, I’ll be holding my breath for a couple of weeks or a month before the anniversary of her death. Maybe that time will dwindle as the years pass, but it will never go away.
This much I know for sure.
But then I’ll watch the flowers start blooming, Sarah’s smile covering the Earth in the form of daffodils and magnolia trees and all the beautiful colors of spring. I’ll finally be able to exhale, and celebrate the anniversary of one of the happiest days of my life – our wedding day.
You see, that’s what I do now.
I search the stars for silver linings.
It’s what I have to do now, in her absence, without her here to find them for me. It’s so my grief doesn’t swallow me whole.
I look to the sky and I stare at the stars and I see her eyes in place of them and I find a silver lining to hold onto and it is there that I find my breath again.
I take my husband’s hand and it’s there that I find the strength to share her story with the world.
For the last year I’ve been writing blogs for White Sands Treatment Center in Florida, sharing every soul shattering detail of my journey on the other side of addiction, in the hopes that my sister’s struggle will bring strength to “someone else’s Sarah.” So far they’ve been read by over 60,000 people.
60,000 people have gotten a glimpse into my sister’s heart. And mine.
Every time I find myself getting discouraged, or thinking my words aren’t enough to save anyone, I get a message from someone telling me my writing resonated with them, brought them comfort, gave them the strength to fight another day.
I keep all of those messages in a journal, and when I need a little reminder of why I need to keep putting one foot in front of the other, I flip open to a random page and I read. Those words have helped me find my faith.
Faith in myself, faith in my marriage, faith in the fact that Sarah is still with me every day, faith in the fact I will find a way to wade through my grief and come out on the other side. Faith that her story is helping people, faith that there’s a reason why I keep pushing myself to dig deeper, to speak my truth more freely, to stand up for those who don’t have voices. Faith in the unknown; that one day I’ll be able to find my sister somewhere in the stars and I’ll make my home in her laugh once again.
Faith in the lessons I’ve learned, and faith in the fact that it is possible to find yourself, your true being, even in the throes of what seems to be an insurmountable grief.
Maybe it’s because you have to reach to the depths of your soul and draw on strength you never knew you had. Maybe it’s because you’re all of a sudden forced to spend your days questioning everything you thought to be true about your world, and coming up with different answers than what you once knew.
Maybe you just have no other option, because you’ve already lost who you were before.
Maybe you endure, simply because you have no other choice.
And sometimes, just sometimes, in the midst of the journey you never wanted to embark on in the first place, you find your purpose.
So to all of you out there feeling like you’re at the end of your rope, or that nothing good could possibly come out of whatever situation you’ve found yourself in:
It can. It will.
In the words of Sarah’s favorite headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.”
Tuesday night, singer Chris Brown tweeted about 20-year-old singer Kehlani Parrish’s alleged recent suicide attempt, MSNBC reported, and in 140 characters, managed to perfectly exemplify what’s wrong with how some people view suicide.
“There is no attempting suicide,” he wrote. “Stop flexing for the gram. Doing shit for sympathy so them comments under your pics don’t look so bad.”
There is no attempting suicide. Stop flexing for the gram. Doing shit for sympathy so them comments under your pics don’t look so bad
Taking a suicide attempt lightly is no laughing matter. About one-third of people who attempt suicide will try again within one year.
We think Chris Brown could benefit from reading some stories from our brave writers who speak up about suicide. Because no one who attempts to take their life should be condemned for “seeking attention” — but offered support.
As with any chronic or mental illness, you may find yourself in the dreaded emergency room more times than you may like.
Recently this has been more than enough for me. On several occasions it was for my chronic illness. I had a setback and had to discontinue a medication that had been keeping my idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH) at bay and my life somewhat “normal.” Most of these visits were your regular blood work, looks OK, keep doing this, discharge, follow-up-type deals.
But on my last visit something interesting happened.
So this past week, I said to my husband, after speaking with my therapist on several occasions, that I had been having thoughts of death and I may need some extra help. I had no suicide plan, I had no notes, I had said no goodbyes. But with this thought of “the only way out of this never-ending pain is death,” it was finally starting to sound like a good idea.
I decided it was time to go back to the ER. I was having intense pain in my head, visual symptoms and increasing thoughts of suicide. Once at triage I told the triage nurse about my diagnosis of IIH. I told him my neurologist’s strict orders that if I was having any visual issues that I was to come to the ER and he was to be called (my neurologist happens to be contracted with this hospital). I also then proceeded to tell him that I was having suicidal thoughts. He then asked if I had a plan, I told him no. He asked if I would like some help with that…
To which I replied, most certainly… as if it were a question.
I was then sent back to the waiting room.
Thirty minutes later I was called to a smaller room where I waited 20 minutes to see a doctor. I proceeded to tell the doctor the same information I told triage. I then told her I was having suicidal thoughts and would like some help for that as well. She seemed to acknowledge what I was saying, and said the nurse would be with me shortly to start some medications.
I then saw a nurse to start an IV and some medications. I then told the nurse about my suicidal thoughts, and that I needed to speak with someone. I seemed to come across a blank stare.
Before I knew it was I being discharged — no call to my neurologist, no call to a mental health worker, no call to the local mental health facility that contracts with all of the local hospitals in my city. Our hospitals keep mental health workers on staff and they need to be called in.
I was able to call the hospital and file a complaint. They assured me that this was not protocol, and that it would be handled. I am not sure that this is the end of my complaint, and I am not sure that I won’t take my complaint further.
What I do know is that I kept in contact with my therapist the entire time via text and my husband was with me the entire time. I was not left alone, I was able to stay safe, I was able to come home, remain safe and follow up with my therapist and start a treatment plan. I was able to come out of this knowing that this was not my fault.
I am a sad, though — sad for myself, sad for others who reach out for help and are met with blank stares, or the eyes of those who think, This woman looks “sane,” or She surely can’t be suicidal, or She isn’t running naked down the halls, so she clearly is not a threat to herself or those around her, just by looking at what I am wearing, or that I have makeup on, or my hair has been washed.
I asked three times for mental health help, and three times I was denied basic care.
Something has to be done to fix this system when a simple emergency room cannot handle one of the largest emergencies happening in our country today.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment when you were at a hospital and a medical staffer, fellow patient or a stranger made a negative or surprising comment that caught you off guard. How did you respond to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.
I remember the first time I heard my mother’s voice after I found out my father had taken his life. I was in the back of Whole Foods, where I had received the devastating news, sitting with my friend Pam. My husband was on his way to me. But I needed to speak to my mom. So, with my hands shaking and an endless flow of sobs and tears, I dialed the number to the house that my father and mother had shared for over 40 years.
My mother answered, and as she recounted what had happened, we sat on the phone crying. And she said to me, “Deborah, I don’t want the girls to know how their grandpa died.” When I asked her why, she answered, “I don’t want them to think he didn’t love them enough to stay.” We both knew we could not keep this from them. And even more, that we could not possibly grieve a lie. That wasn’t truly what my mother wanted. Her words were not born of shame, but rather the fear that my children would come to see their beloved grandfather as selfish, or perhaps see themselves as “not enough” to keep him here.
I promised my mother, vowed to her in fact, that I would make sure my daughters knew how much their grandpa loved them. I would tell them the truth about how he died, but I would remind them of all that they meant to him in life. Somehow I would find the words to impart all of that.
My husband took me home. And soon after, our daughters began to arrive from school. They did not all come home at the same time. And while it would have been easier to say the words only once, and to have them all together, it was obvious to them as they walked through the door that something was terribly wrong. There would be no postponing the conversation.
It began with my middle daughter, who was beaming because, on that same day, she had gotten her braces taken off. A friend had picked her up from school so she could keep the appointment. And it fell to us to rob her of that smile, as we told her that her grandpa had taken his life.
Then we told our oldest, and finally our youngest.
We began each conversation with the reminder that I promised my mother I would give. “You know how much Grandpa loved you, right? He loved you so much and he was so proud of you.” As the words came out, the expressions on each of my daughters’ faces quickly changed. They could see in our faces that something was wrong. We then tried to gently frame the harsh news that we were about to deliver, “You know how much Grandpa has been struggling these last months? You know he has been dealing with depression and anxiety.” And before we could go further, my daughters knew. The tears and cries spilled out as they asked if their grandpa had killed himself. And my husband and I had to answer them with the hardest truth they would ever have to take in. “Yes. Grandpa took his life early this morning. He’s dead.” And then through my sobs I said the same thing my brother had said to me that morning when he told me of our father’s suicide: “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry.”
The cries and screams that escaped from my children’s mouths, cries that came from a deep and primal place, will never leave me. They are forever seared into my memory. And I can say with certainty that those were the hardest and most painful words I have ever spoken to my children. Everything about them felt wrong. And time hasn’t changed that.
My daughters know their grandfather died by suicide. They do not know the details of his death. They don’t need to and they are not ready for the imagery that my brother, my mother and I struggle with. They also know their grandfather loved them very much, and that he died of an illness. It’s taken time for them to reach that place of understanding, and it doesn’t mean they don’t still struggle at times. We talk about it openly. They know there is no right or wrong way to grieve this loss. But just as we did from the moment we shared that painful truth, we face and process the loss honestly.
Before my father was buried, each of my daughters wrote him a letter. They told him how much they loved him. They told him how much they would miss him and they shared their own personal memories and feelings. And in each of their letters, they told their grandpa that they were not angry at him. They offered their forgiveness.
Those letters were placed in my father’s casket. He was laid to rest with their words and their love for all eternity. They know the truth. Their grandpa died of an illness. It was not a reflection of his love for them. He loved them fully, deeply and wholly. That is his enduring legacy. His suicide is the final footnote they must live with, but it is not and never will be the whole story.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Mighty is asking the following: If you’re a parent with a mental illness, tell us about a time you tried (either successfully or unsuccessfully) to explain to your children about your mental illness/mental health issues. How did they react? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.
The last time I saw my father was on a Tuesday morning. “I love you. I’ll see you later,” he said to me as he stood in the doorway of my bedroom. I remember thinking this was odd because he almost never said goodbye to me in the mornings before leaving for work.
Had I been able to see into the dark mist that was clouding his conscious at that moment, I would have told him what an incredible father he was, that he deserved all the happiness in the world and that I needed him to stay. I needed my dad because I was still his little girl, and I needed him when I graduated from high school, and I needed him to walk me down the aisle when I got married, and I needed him to someday meet his future grandkids. But I could not see into his mind, and I could not read his thoughts, so all I said that morning was, “I love you too.”
One of the hardest parts about my father’s suicide was facing the mental illness it had left me with, and the stigma that came along with it. I was no longer a regular 16-year-old girl; I was now a 16-year-old girl battling severe depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress. I was no longer the star of the lacrosse team or the straight-A student; I was now the “crazy” girl who had panic attacks at school and was barely squeaking by in her advanced classes.
I was so ashamed of the person I had become. Why was I not even strong enough to make it through a school day? Why was I not able to bounce back and be the normal teenager I had once been?
My father’s suicide was by the far the hardest thing I have ever had to face. But through it, I grew. I began to learn I was not the labels people put on me and I was not what doctors wrote me prescriptions for.
I believe we will all face adversity at some point in our lives: adversity that will beat us down until we feel we do not have the strength to stand back up. But through my father’s suicide, I learned I am not the adversity I have faced. I am the power I receive every time I get back up after life knocks me off my feet. I am the strength I have every time I smile through the pain. I am not the mistakes that I, or anybody else makes. I am the lessons I learn through them. I owe it to my wonderful father to be the best person I can be. But even more than that, I owe it to myself because everybody is worthy of true joy.
If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
The Mighty is asking the following: Tell us one thing your loved ones might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness. What would you say to teach them?If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.