We just had a post that could be considered suicide ideation. I tried to comment but in the interim it got closed, so I'm posting here.

Do we need to check if SE itself has a policy for such things? Other social media sites appear to be building them, and here are some overall guidelines from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center.

  • I think it should be noted that in this case the poster wanted his question to be deleted as soon as possible, limiting the ability to remain in contact. But overall I'm for having a policy. (finding or making one ourself.
    – DirkM
    Jul 8, 2014 at 15:00
  • I can't find the question; is it deleted? Jul 8, 2014 at 16:14
  • It depends on the situation, but we don't hesitate to reach out directly. If you still have access to it please email me the link in question and I'll handle it privately.
    – hairboat
    Jul 8, 2014 at 16:37
  • 1
    I have no experience with it but Befrienders may be a good suggestion for these cases.
    – Unrul3r
    Jul 8, 2014 at 17:15
  • does self-immolation fall under this category?
    – Anthony
    Jul 21, 2014 at 23:40

4 Answers 4


I have reached out directly to the user in that specific case.

Here is a good primer on how to handle these situations if they arise in the future.


I have managed several of these posts in the past and they can range from serious problems and actual suicide attempts to trolling. Every case is individual.

What we did was:

1) Identify who on the mod staff would contact the person. It is important, IMO, to have a single contact and we had the advantage of having people with some background in suicide prevention. If you do not have official training, most any staff member can help.

2) Close and delete the question. With the exception of trolls, I have NEVER seen a complaint about deleting the post/question. This is to protect both privacy and unwanted attention to the OP.

3) Maintain frequent and supportive contact. Offer compassion and alternate options. Ideally, guide the OP to professional assistance, suicide hotline typically. You can find them via google search.



If the OP is unable or unwilling to help, you as a staff member can make the call. At a minimum you will get some advice form people actually trained to manage such a crisis.

4) I will caution you that there are times when such treats result in an actual suicide attempt. Depending on your training and background, staff may need help as well, either from each other or professional.

  • 2
    I recommend that Stack Exchange users (including moderators) leave the business of contacting the person directly to employees (Community Managers or developers), simply because it's a breach of privacy and a fuzzy legal boundary a user probably wouldn't want to run afoul in.
    – hairboat
    Jul 8, 2014 at 23:05
  • 1
    I asked about this issue in the Temperance chat room and it turns out mods actually have a template email to send out for suicidal ideation. Definitely wouldn't want to get involved directly since this isn't our site. We just work here :) Jul 8, 2014 at 23:40

It would be good to have a email address or something to post about questions like this so SE can reach out.


I'd like to mark this as answered, so it's not dangling here. I've had a look at the stuff mentioned in other answers and here's a summary of what I think we'd want to have as a "standard operating procedure"

In response to these kinds of ideation posts (genuine or not), we want to achieve four things:

  1. Not to offer advice. Few people on SE are qualified to do so, and SE isn't the right mechanism for that kind of advice anyway.
  2. And in addition, close (but not necessarily delete -- see point 4) the question But at the same time:
  3. Not to dismiss or simply ignore the OP.
  4. And so while the question should be closed, the OP could be offered a pointer to a safe place where they can possibly get help. I suggest that place could be the IASP and even specifically their Crisis Centers Lists page

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