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What to Know About the Viral TikTok Suicide Video

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Editor's Note

If you experience suicidal thoughts, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.

Yesterday kicked off National Suicide Prevention Awareness Week in the U.S. This is a week extremely close to my heart as someone who has attempted suicide multiple times. The need for better care, better prevention, more training and more support could not be more pressing right now. These conversations need to happen. Change needs to be enacted. Suicide rates continue to be on the rise, and yet it is still something so many people don’t want to talk about.

Last month, a man recorded and posted a video of his death by suicide, which was then circulated around TikTok and Twitter on Sunday night. TikTok is attempting to remove the video and is banning accounts attempting to repeatedly upload the clips. It is an extremely graphic, traumatizing and triggering video that should have been taken down much faster than it was.

Both TikTok and Twitter are platforms many young people use. To stumble across this in your feed is not only horrifying but for people struggling with their mental health or suicidal thoughts, it is so dangerous. Organizations like the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Association of Suicidology and the World Health Organization (WHO) have been working hard to ensure suicide reporting guidelines are being followed. Especially after the debut of “13 Reasons Why,” it became clear how dangerous reporting and displaying methods of suicide on screen is. It is essential that news teams and journalists are sensitive to the issue and report in ways that are safe to the community.

But what happens when it’s not a news station or article that’s detailing methods of suicide? What happens in situations like this, when a video recording of a death by suicide is circulated? We may not be able to stop someone from posting something, but we have got to be better at ensuring videos like these are taken down immediately.

Jazz Thornton, mental health advocate and co-founder of Voices of Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to breaking the stigma around mental illness, posted a video on her TikTok last night encouraging her followers to debrief if they had seen the video, telling them not to share the video and reminding them how much value their life holds and that they are needed here. The comments on her video show just how triggering this was:

Some of the comments read:

  • “It came up on my fyp [for you page]. It has been 6 months since my attempt and it brought up so many emotions.”
  • “I still can’t process it my mind is frazzled probably the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen. Please look after yourself and I’m here to chat.”
  • “It was so traumatizing.”
  • “I’m scared. I hope that video won’t appear in my fyp [for you page]. I’m so sorry for everyone that saw the video stay safe.”
  • However, one of the most infuriating comments was:
  • “It popped up on mine and I reported it and it came back as ‘not violating community standards.’ I feel incredibly sick.”

I understand every video cannot be reviewed before posting. However, if someone reports a video like this (as they should), and it comes back as “not violating community standards,” there is a much larger issue at hand. What will it take to violate community standards? If a video this graphic and triggering doesn’t, what does? Videos like these have got to be taken down faster. And often, that’s done by people reporting the video. But if the reports are being ignored, the video continues to circulate and more people become impacted. Social platforms like this have got to do better. We need to do better.

Personally, I saw the video and I can’t describe how horrified I was. It made me sick to my stomach. It was extremely triggering and required much self-care afterward. I thank people like Jazz who use their platform for good and look out for their followers. I hope this can be something we learn from. I hope people realize how large an issue suicide is and how much our country desperately needs better care and prevention so no one ever has to make a video like this. I hope social media platforms start to take reports seriously and get better at taking these videos down as fast as possible. I hope anyone who did see the video has someone they can talk to about it if needed.

But, more than anything, I hope people know how loved they are and how much we need them here. Your life matters. Keep fighting. We’ll get there together.

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

Originally published: September 8, 2020
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