Lifestyle

Is Reddit’s Suicidal Subforum Helpful Or One Big Joke?

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Midterms suck. The holidays are stressful. But if you're feeling lost and overwhelmed, it's easy to lose perspective and think that these feelings are going to last forever. They're not. If you're getting to a point where suicide seems like a viable solution to not telling your parents that you are flunking Statistics 101, our advice would be to see your school's counselor.

At the very least, Reddit.com provides its users with a support platform: a subforum called r/suicidewatch. But with all the Internet trolls that lurk around sites like Reddit and 4Chan, egging on potentially suicidal kids, do these forums hurt more than they help?

The answer isn't simple. As one mod put it, Reddit is not designed as a suicide prevention hotline, and they won't give out information about their users who say they might kill themselves. Here's mod Aenea‘s take:

The most effective thing that SuicideWatch does (in my opinion) is to offer a safe, non-judgmental place for people to talk about what is going wrong in their lives. I often think that the advice that is given is secondary to letting people know that they are really not alone, and that there are people in the world who care. We listen. Some people comment, most don't. A lot of the most effective support work goes on behind the scenes, through pms/emails/chat. And we try very hard to make sure that we maintain a supportive environment, which is why I think that SW is so effective. While we have no way at all of knowing how effective we are, at least (from the numbers of people who come back a few months later and say “you got me through that bad time”) meeting the needs of some people.

If I run across a suicidal or depressed person on reddit, I will usually refer them to either r/SuicideWatch or r/depression, not because we have any magical answers or are experts, but because those are two subreddits that are as heavily moderated as we can handle so that people can feel safe. Larger subreddits such as AskReddit have a considerably more ‘hands-off' approach to moderation, which is appropriate. We don't.

Unfortunately, in the bowels of Internet forums, a lot of kids do look at these communities as the only outlet for their problems and won't seek help otherwise, which can aggravate the situation if trolls start posting nasty comments. It's not news to say that the web can be a double-edged sword when it comes to dealing with deeply personal issues, so our best advice would be to listen to mods like Aenea, listen to forums with a grain of salt, and get help outside the Internet if you're actually dealing with matters of life and death.

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