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Community Crisis Response Guidelines

If you are considering suicide right now, please contact a crisis center:

Where can this be applied?

This document was written specifically for tilde.town's IRC chat in mind, but these guidelines can be more broadly applied to places like mastodon, bbj, mail, MUD/MUSH, other online spaces, or even in-person/meatspace environments.

What is a crisis?

By 'crisis', this document specifically refers to suicidal threats or behavior. This document is an overview of crisis response in an online community setting.

Identifying a crisis

Yellow Flags:

These may warrant a kind/gentle check-in, but don't necessarily indicate imminent danger.

Example: consider dropping someone a line with "hey, I noticed {something}, are you doing okay?"

Red Flags:

These could indicate an imminent danger, and should be treated as serious threats to life; see "Appropriate Responses" below for suggested handling.

Appropriate responses

If you think someone is considering suicide, engage with them directly and immediately, preferably in a way that's as close to where you saw a warning sign as possible (if it was a feels post, send them an email or a PM on IRC if you know that they check those; if it was in an IRC channel, talk to them in that channel or PM them, if it was on Mastodon, send them a DM, etc.)

Talking to someone about suicide is not going to make their situation worse; in a best case scenario, they were just joking/venting and will admit so, and you might both be a little embarrassed that it came up (and in that case, they know that someone cares!). If they are actually in a suicidal state, engaging with them directly is the best approach. Ask them specific questions, and believe what they are saying.

If you have a strong suspicion that they need immediate medical attention and you know where they are, try to contact local emergency responders in their area. However, keep in mind that a potential police presence might not be the best response, especially for trans/disabled/neuroatypical folks; use your best judgement in this situation, and reach out to your fellow townies for advice/feedback if you're not sure who to call. Someone else may be more knowledgeable about a particular person's situation. In any case, remember that you might be dealing with a life or death situation, so drastic options may be justified. Prioritize reaching medical professionals whenever possible.

Here are some potential responses if there's an urgent need to get through to someone in a suicidal state:

In a less immediate context, suggest mental health treatment, and be supportive of their attempts to take care of themselves. Remember that suicidal thoughts are an expression of disordered mental activity, and professional help is always an appropriate thing to seek out.

Inappropriate responses

If you cannot or do not feel comfortable contributing an appropriate response, it is better to not respond at all. Similarly, if you notice someone else making unhelpful responses, consider sending them a PM and request that they step back until the situation calms down.

These responses can be extremely harmful or get in the way of helping, both to an individual experiencing a crisis, and to the community's ability to respond as a whole. It is understandably frustrating and difficult to witness a person in crisis, but please take a deep breath and exercise some compassion. You are always free to step away from your computer for a few moments.

In general, avoid:

Less dangerous crises

Less dangerous crises, such as depression or financial hardship, while possible contributors to suicidal actions, are not in scope for this guide.

Difficulties of online suicide prevention

The difficult part of this situation is the lack of immediate physical access to someone in danger; we cannot necessarily go to someone's side and comfort them, or take them to a hospital if they've hurt themselves. The best thing we can do as a community is to provide support, love, and help each other connect to life-saving resources.

On remaining quiet

If you find yourself witnessing a crisis, but cannot bring yourself to contribute to the immediate intervention, that's okay! It's also important to just be there and have eyes on the situation. If you don't feel comfortable engaging a suicidal person, but want to provide support to the situation, consider sending a PM to anyone who's helping them out to say that you see them, affirm their efforts, and offer them good vibes <3

Self-care

Witnessing someone in a crisis is extremely draining; it is normal to feel panic, anxiety, helplessness, etc. It can get overwhelming and scary. If there are other people who are present, consider sending them a private message for some solidarity and support; even just having a group hug and sense of community and collective suffering can be a tremendous help.

Suicidal behavior is an irrational mental state, and if you are not a trained professional, there are no expectations that you "fix" anything. As a friend and a member of the community, the best thing you can do is maintain a compassionate approach, support each other, and be good to yourselves.

In short, take care of yourself; try not to put yourself in a bad place in order to help someone else.

Other resources

United States:

Outside US:

About this guide's contributors

This guide was originally authored by ~endorphant, who has formal training in mental health first aid and personal experience with medical emergency and suicide response. ~endorphant is based in the United States, so most of the resources/references are US-centric; if you have information or experiences beyond the US, please consider adding to this document. Also, if you have personal experiences with any of the listed resources or amendments to this guide, please feel free to edit it directly.

For general questions or help, your fellow townies are here for you <3

Additional contributors/proofreading:

Thank you for being a compassionate member of this community; learning how to help and support each other is extremely important <3


last compiled: 2019-09-03 05:59:55.636703