As a mod of a smaller site, I really like Shog9's answer about Do we have any responsibility to take any action if someone says they're thinking about suicide in their post?. I personally would like to see a mod only tool that could be used for posts that mention suicide and/or bodily harm. The feature would ideally close/lock/delete the question, send a well crafted message to the user, and alert a community moderator to follow up on.

As to where the feature should be added, it could be added as an additional reason under either "flag" or "lock". The list of reasons for locking is already long, so maybe as a new flag reason. It could replace the "duplicate" and/or "close" flags since I cannot think of a reason for a mod to ever raise those two flags.

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    Is this happening so often that we need a special tool for that?? I really don't think so. In the very rare cases when it happens, one can spend the extra few minutes to do all of this "manually". Moderator can do all the actions you mentioned. (close/delete/lock a question, interact with SE team in private channels etc) Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 11:52
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    @ShadowWizard my feeling is that while it happens infrequently, the importance of getting the response correct makes it better to have a single step process.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 11:57
  • Fair enough, but I don't think the team should spend any time/money on this - and I explained why. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 11:59
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    I wouldn't feel comfortable sending a message to someone considering suicide, however well crafted the message was. That's not what I signed up for.
    – yannis
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 12:00
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    @Yannis I agree and that is why I like the idea of an automated system. It moves one of the infrequent, but not fun, parts of being a mod into the hands of the CMs.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 12:03
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    @StrongBad so join the private chat room where you interact with the team and drop the hot potato in their hands, aka post link to the relevant post. Done. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 12:17

3 Answers 3


I am a moderator, not a person trained in dealing with depression/suicide.

I have significant reservations in being forced into taking action in situations which may involve this. I have had to deal with this in my personal life. It's stressful being forced to make decisions about such things.

I have no idea what the effect an automatically generated message would have on someone. It might help, it might not. Please don't make moderators make this decision.

There are entire classifications for "suicide risk" levels. I know they exist, but have never been formally trained in diagnosing or understanding them. These dictate the proper escalation process for suicide threats/etc.

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    I have had a tiny bit of training on this. The response has to take the input into account; there are variations in immediacy, likelihood of followthrough, precipitating event, and other stuff. An auto-responder message that says anything more than "would you please call this hotline (number)" could go badly wrong, but one that only says that will be unhelpful often enough that you really would have preferred taking a few minutes for the human touch. Commented Jun 2, 2015 at 18:42

I agree with ShadowWizard, that it's not really a frequent occurrence, and so would be a lot of resources.

I doubt it's more than a few times a year. If it was we'd have new/different proposals targetting "this happens a lot" and not as currently "this rare incident is serious".

However, being on the fence a bit, I also agree with your statement which as a risk assessment is:

Likelihood of outcome: Very Low
Severity of outcome: Very High

And a high severity of outcome usually means action is to be taken.
However, you also stated yourself that "I really like Shog9's answer". In that answer, he touches on what I think is the conclusion here.
That we are not equipped to deal with such things, and as such even a finely tuned moderator tool (as per your proposal) would be no better, and does not resolve or alleviate the issue of people not being equipped to deal with it.

The only way to make a moderator tool "safe" and an improvement on the current way it's handled would be to involve a professional support/help group to assist in writing the email/comment and other aspects of how to handle it.
Then it is becoming quite a substantial amount of work and involvement for something which is not frequent at all.
If we got one or two a month, then perhaps.

I think the fact Stack users, mods, and staff are concerned enough to manage this both diplomatically and sensitively is enough as it is.

So I'm not sure what more a management tool could provide without extensive research and utilising an external professional support group.


Suicide is very common. In the US one person dies by suicide every 12.8 minutes. In the UK 12 men die by suicide every day and suicide is the highest cause of death in men aged between 15 and 49.

I normally welcome anything that can be done to reduce the numbers of people who die by suicide. I promote the Campaign Against Living Miserably (a UK charity) and Soften The Fck Up (they don't censor that word on their website) (an Australian group). Both of these groups target male suicide.



Given all this you might think that I'd be all for technical measures. I sort of am, but only if they're done correctly, and it's very hard to get this right. Doing it wrong would be more harmful. And SE isn't like Reddit or Tumblr where these kind of posts are frequent.

Other people have asked not to be placed in this situation - but it seems that a protocol helps here. It reduces the need to think about whether you're doing the right thing; other people have already done that thinking for you.

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