There's a post that was closed as off-topic, which it is. It's a rant, one that definitely doesn't fit within the scope of our site.

The author of the post mentions he's contemplating suicide. Is there anything that we should do in these situations? Amy makes a great point that it would be a shame if that did indeed happen, but we also shouldn't keep the post open just because someone is having a bad day.

It seems odd though that a site about conceptual questions in the field of Software Engineering has to deal with such a question, but it's something that's worth discussion to get everyone on the same page.

What should we do if someone is threatening suicide? Is it our responsibility to intervene? Should the post be locked so folks don't do more harm than good by posting inflammatory comments (not that that's happened)?



1 Answer 1


I hate to sound callous about this, but... This isn't a support group; y'all probably aren't trained to deal with the outpouring of grief and despair of someone you've never met and may have absolutely nothing in common with. I'm certainly not. Indeed, there's a decent chance that leaving a post like this around could end up just making things worse.

Therefore, I strongly recommend the following:

  1. Close the post as Off Topic, with a comment like this:

    It sounds like you're going through a really hard time. I'd really like to help you, but unfortunately, we're not well-equipped to do so here. Your best option is probably to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. People are on call there to talk to people struggling with the same kind of issues you are, regardless of location. US: +1-800-273-8255. If calling's not good, they can chat with you live online. Just go to this site, and you can talk with someone online from 10PM-6AM UTC: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx It might not help, but what's the harm?

  2. Flag for a moderator who can lock or delete the question to prevent discussion from continuing in the comments.

  3. For any credible threat of bodily harm - whether targeted at the author themselves or someone else - use the contact us option at the bottom of any page on the site to let us know about this. If need-be, we'll follow up to make sure the situation is handled appropriately.

  • 6
    Thank you for handling this. I wasn't quite sure how to deal with this and now I know.
    – maple_shaft Mod
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 3:02
  • I agree with this. Is there a SE site that actually is akin to a support group that we could redirect the question to that may be better equipped?
    – Telastyn
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 19:55
  • 10
    No, @Telastyn; this is an outstandingly poor tool for that job.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 20:07
  • That answer is very US centric. Maybe a page exist with list of suicide hotlines around the world that we could use instead? Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 14:12
  • 2
    If you can find one, add it @bjarkef. That said, the organization referenced is open to contact from any location.
    – Shog9
    Commented Nov 7, 2013 at 14:17
  • 2
    @bjarkef In the early days of Quora, something similar happened. The person was definitely NOT a resident of the USA, as he said which continent he lived on, even though the question was submitted anonymously. We worried, responded to his question, tried to help, perhaps did help, but ultimately, I think what Shog9 suggested would have been best. Quora is, or was, Q&A with some social, whereas SO is Q&A with minimal social. Even if SO were Q&A with a lot of social, it would be difficult. Being US-centric adds further complexity that is beyond what an SE site can do, responsibly. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 22:13
  • 2
    And 'distress vampires' exist too. I've heard about cases of people 'dying of cancer' on health forums, and milking all the virtual sympathy, and it all turning out to be hokum. Doing what @Shog9 says insulates us from that too.
    – Benjol
    Commented Nov 15, 2013 at 13:23
  • 1
    For what it's worth, @FeralOink, the BBC forums, which definitely are social spaces, have the same policy (or, at least, did a few years ago when last I checked). Suicide mentions should be flagged for moderator attention. Of course, the Beeb has trained mods on staff to deal with this stuff. I'm not sure that SE does.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jan 3, 2014 at 6:02
  • @EllieKesselman, Which thread was it? Do you have a link?
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 3, 2015 at 13:17
  • @Pacerier I will look now. Quora's search isn't as good as SE sites :o) so I might be awhile. Commented Apr 4, 2015 at 0:01
  • @EllieKesselman, Usually Google's search works better (same for SE's case). E.g. google quora *search-term*.
    – Pacerier
    Commented Apr 6, 2015 at 2:04
  • 1
    Moderators these days should ping the team directly from the user's profile, rather than using the contact form.
    – ArtOfCode
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 7:06
  • Why should such a post be locked? Immediate deletion, never undelete the post! Also, staff attention is good for suicidal posts.
    – EKons
    Commented Nov 13, 2016 at 17:56

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