[trigger warning: self-harm]
Sometimes our moderators will come across content by a user where something is shared that indicates that the user may be considering taking their own life. As you can imagine, these are some of the hardest moments for anyone to encounter. Our moderator team desires to show compassion and care, and this quarter, we’re going to set aside some time to work with organizations that specialize in these interactions. Our goal is to provide a mix of tools, support, and education to ensure that the moderators have the proper guidance and options to hand these situations off to lessen the burden on their shoulders.
You are absolutely right, that these are the hardest moments in moderation. I'm glad to see that you're going to incorporate some external expertise, and I also want to stress that, in my experience, having staff generally-available in the TL should be a top priority when thinking about how to support moderators in these times.
When I've encountered these situations--and I want to make clear to non-mod readers that this is not a frequent thing!--I've been blindsided by them. I've found myself with shaky hands and short of breath, my thoughts have been dashing in a hundred directions at once, I've been worried about whether I've taken the right actions and about what actions I can take. I've had a hard time going back to work and have had to go back to work. (Heck, I'm getting 25% of the way wound up just writing this and reflecting back.)
Each time, staff have been there to walk through it alongside me, and it's been invaluable.
I'd strongly suggest a checklist among the mod-pages: we're all here because we like doing things to help our communities and our members, but in these situations it's hard to even imagine what to do. But in the cold light of retrospection it's easy to say that we should (at least)
- reach out to a CM (TL? Contact Us? your call) to say "I'm initiating the self-harm protocol for userXXXXX."
ping all fellow site-mods to say "I've seen this, I think it needs to be handled as self-harm, I may not be very responsive to the usual daily grind today."
(At either of those first two points ^^ it should be abundantly clear that it's absolutely fine for the mod to say "I've seen this, I'm initiating the self-harm protocol, and I can't/won't handle it myself." It just needs to be okay--and said so, many times--for someone to throw up the flag and walk away for whatever their reasons are.)
select the "self-harm" template to mod-message the user (to be build by you-all). This contains whatever canned advice and links to help you and your experts think is appropriate.
- comb through the last day or two's activity from the user, looking for other statements or concerning behavior. (Delete? Redact? You'll have to think about what you want the broader community seeing out there.)
I'd also strongly recommend that you ask your current moderators who are willing to comb back through mod-messages and mod-room transcripts to look back and write up examples of how these have been handled in the past, what seems to have worked well, what feels in retrospect like it's been dropped. I'm sure those ideas up there are not the best ones you'll find.
And please remember that, since we don't handle many of these, a large fraction of moderators' self-harm alerts are going to be their first ones. We're always going to need staff (or maybe it's mod-council?) with both experience and the ability to look over our shoulder to be there with us. To make sure we're doing helpful things, to check on how we're doing, and to remind us to step away when that's best.