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This came up again recently, with a post from an apparently suicidal user. In this case, the problem was exacerbated by the post itself including profanity/cursing too, which is usually cleaned up using rude/abusive flags. While looking to see whether users should flag as rude/abusive then, I realized there is apparently no definitive guidance I can link users to that says 'here's what to do, nothing more, nothing less'.

Moderators have a moderator agreement policy on what to do as moderators: we can clean up the posts if needed and are supposed to escalate things to CMs. But this isn't applicable to regular users.

There used to be this post outlining a few things regular users can do (vote to close as off-topic, copy-paste comment, flag for a moderator to lock/delete), but it's closed as a duplicate of the moderator agreement policy. Besides that, there's another later written unofficial answer to that post now, listing a whole list of things not to do, including a vehement argument against copy-pasting comments. But that answer doesn't give any actionable guidance (like voting to close or flagging for a moderator to lock/delete) on what actually should be done instead then to handle these posts as soon as possible while minimizing any friction, so it's also not something I'd link someone asking me 'what should I do in this case' to.

So, that leaves me with a few questions:

  • Where do I find official guidance I can link to regular users on what steps to take when encountering posts from apparently suicidal users?
  • Is the guidance in the accepted answer to the original post still sufficient? If it's not sufficient, can we have new guidance, either edited into that accepted answer or in a new post, so I have one definitive official post to link regular users to?
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  • In this post, it says (as option #2) that you can custom flag for a mod to lock or delete the question to prevent the discussion from continuing in the comments, so I'd say that the guidance in the answers to that post is sufficient. I'm not sure about any other "official" posts, but the guidance outline in Charcoal's "suicidal intent" section is also pretty good.
    – Ollie
    Feb 21 at 18:04
  • 2
    @Ollie if only option #2 should be taken, then the guidance isn't sufficient and up to date at all anymore. Hence the question... I'm personally of the opinion that if I link someone to it now, they will probably start by copy pasting a comment before arriving at option #2, something that the other answer vehemently argues against doing. Also it's weird linking users to a question that's closed as a duplicate but say "here's your official guidance on what to do". But I'm not in a place to make an official ruling either ;)
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Feb 21 at 18:14
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    Admittedly, I did use a CTRL-F to find that option, so you're probably right. Being buried in a duplicate post isn't really great either...
    – Ollie
    Feb 21 at 18:58
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    It astounds me that that answer (the MTL one) hasn't been deleted yet. I have always considered it to be actively harmful. Feb 22 at 9:40
  • @Nick stands with Ukraine: In what way is it actively harmful? Mar 5 at 11:22
  • @This_is_NOT_a_forum For the same reasons discussed in Rebecca's answer (and to some extent in animuson's). Canned comments, especially those pointing people to suicide lines, are totally hollow tokens. People who suggest them do so because it makes them feel better but they're doing something without putting any consideration into how they make the person that actually needs help feel. [1/2] Mar 5 at 12:45
  • By suggesting canned comments all MTL is doing is showing that they are woefully underqualified to be put in a situation where they actually need to help someone, and are passing on that bad advice to others to do the same. [2/2] Mar 5 at 12:45
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    @Nick well, what do you think happens once stuff is escalated? As far as I know, a standard template mail goes out, with, surprise, surprise, a link to a (suicide) hotline/chat service. So it's really not more "actively harmful" to copy paste a comment than to only flag XD
    – Tinkeringbell Mod
    Mar 5 at 13:39
  • @Tinkeringbell IMO there is a difference between doing it oneself and advising others to do the same. It would disappoint me if a template email is all that is done though. Mar 6 at 0:20

1 Answer 1

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We are grateful for the community’s vigilance and empathy in watching out for each other.

Our official policy regarding suspicions of self-harm and suicidal users can be found at What are our policies regarding self-harm and suicide?. These types of circumstances can be difficult to manage and carry a lot of responsibility, and while we expect our users and moderators to report such incidents promptly, we do not expect anyone to feel obligated to engage further.

Users can raise a flag for moderation assistance under “in need of moderator intervention.”

An image showing the option called ‘in need of moderator intervention’ in a post’s flag menu.

Moderators can use the "Contact community team" option under "Actions" on the user's Mod menu.

Again, you are of no obligation to further engage a user who may be in crisis. However, if you do feel you would like to engage, we would strongly encourage you to read this answer by Rebecca that Tinkeringbell shared in the original question. It has useful information that could be helpful.

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  • Considering a moderator can only do 1 thing and that's to escalate the situation, can't we skip the moderator intervention completely and ask users to use the Contact Us option instead?
    – Mast
    Mar 4 at 21:14
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    @Mast unfortunately not. The moderator escalation goes straight into an emergency queue that pings a CM on duty so it can be dealt with asap - the contact us form doesn't.
    – Cesar M StaffMod
    Mar 4 at 21:16
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    @Mast Suicidal users and users who are experiencing self harm are escalated to Community Emergency Duty and receive accelerated responses. The Contact Us form does not guarantee a prompt response time.
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Mar 4 at 21:16
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    Would it be possible to provide a guide which escalations are and aren't handled by the emergency duty? As a moderator, this is all new to me.
    – Mast
    Mar 4 at 21:17
  • 1
    On Stack Overflow this route is potentially far too slow, the mod queue is simply too large. Mar 4 at 21:19
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    @NickstandswithUkraine FWIW, I regularly review the tail for all easy flags, as well as as a means of detecting urgent flags like that. Mar 4 at 21:20
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    @NickstandswithUkraine I understand your concern. In our experience, this system escalates these situations quite quickly. Stack moderators are, on the whole, very good at prompt escalation. If we find that situation changes, we may consider new workflows, but for now it is working all right.
    – Bella_Blue StaffMod
    Mar 4 at 21:26
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    @Bella_Blue Nick's main concern is with regard to the enormous volume of flags SO receives, and the clear backlog flaggers notice. I have no doubt they overall get handled fast when noticed, but noticing it in (currently) 7 pages of flags can be hard at times. That's the major way SO is different from the rest of the network in flag handling. Mar 4 at 21:45

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