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Ask The Experts

Worried About My Son

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My son is a freshman in college, and I noticed a blog in his browser history. The title of the blog frightened me, so I looked at it and the blog was about another young person threatening suicide. I am worried my son and his friends think this boy is “cool”. Should I be concerned about my son looking at this? Should I say something? Should I report the person talking about suicide?

Amanda Lehner, Technology Communications Coordinator, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline answers:

Social media and its relationship to suicide is a growing concern for suicide prevention and online safety organizations. Conversations about suicide take place on blogs, social networking sites and other web 2.0, and people sometimes post suicidal intent there as well. Your son’s interest in this site could be because he is simply curious, because his friend sent him the link, or because he is having suicidal thoughts – it’s hard to tell.

The only way to find out is to talk to your son about suicide, ask him questions about his mental health and communicate to him that you are there for him. This is also an opportunity for you to voice your concerns regarding young people believing such actions are “cool.” Whether you decide to disclose that you saw this specific link in his browser history is up to you. If you decide to address the site directly, you can say that this person needs help and you understand that it is difficult to witness someone in suicidal crisis. Talk to him about his feelings about suicide.

In sum, this site is giving you the opportunity to talk about the topic of suicide with your son, which all parents should do with their children. And remember the best thing about the internet – resources! You can find helpful resources here on The Jed Foundation website, and on many other sites. For example, the Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide offers a great downloadable article on how to talk to your teen about suicide. The Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI) lists several resources about family online safety.

Finally, there is help for the person who is posting suicidal intent on his blog. If you see someone online who is talking about killing themselves, the best thing to do is immediately offer support and resources. Post a comment that lets them know they are not alone, that you care, and that they need to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If this person appears to be at imminent risk, meaning they have a method in hand or are in the process of harming themselves, please call the police to see if they can track the person from online information given. Try to remember that the person posting suicidal thoughts or intent is reaching out for help. Every threat should be taken seriously and replies should be compassionate and helpful.