Before you communicate online about suicide, take some time to think about why you want to 'share' this post. Reflect on how your post could affect other people and whether or not there is a different way to communicate this information in a way that is safer or more helpful.
It can also be helpful to be aware of some of the warning signs of suicide risk before you post online, as well as some of the suicide prevention resources offered by the 'social media' or online platform you are using. For example, Facebook’s Suicide Prevention Help Centre provides information on how to report suicide-related content to Facebook, as well as a number of resources and links to suicide helplines in Australia and internationally.
There are many complex factors that lead to someone feeling suicidal, so it is important to communicate about suicide in a safe way.
Talking online about suicide
There are many complex factors that lead to someone feeling suicidal, so it is important to 'communicate about suicide' in a safe way. This is particularly important when communicating online, because the information you 'share' can reach tens of thousands of people extremely quickly. It is possible that some people, who already feel vulnerable, may engage in copycat suicide behaviour or may be negatively affected following exposure to suicide-related content online. Particularly when the content is extensive, exaggerates, or sensationalises suicide; repeats myths or misperceptions about suicide; or presents suicide in a positive or glorified way.
This page offers some general tips for communicating about suicide. This includes some things that are unhelpful, as well as helpful alternatives that you could use.
Don’t use words that describe suicide as criminal or sinful. This may suggest to someone that what they are feeling is wrong or unacceptable, or make someone worry that they'll be judged if they ask for help.
Don’t use words that glamourise, romanticise, or make suicide seem appealing.
Don’t use words that trivialise or make suicide seem less complex than it really is.
Don’t sensationalise suicide.
Don’t use judgmental phrases which reinforce myths, stigma, stereotypes or suggest nothing can be done about suicide.
Don’t provide detailed information about the actual suicide or suicide attempt.
Don’t describe suicide as a desirable outcome.
Any image, photo, video or written post can quickly go viral online.
Any image, photo, video or written 'post' can quickly go 'viral' online. If the post is inaccurate, stigmatising or unsafe, it could have a negative impact on yourself and others.
It’s important to be aware that once your post is published, you will have no control over who will see it or who will 'share' it.
It can be helpful to check the privacy of your profile or online account and remember that if your account is not set to ‘private’, anyone can access the content that you post.
It’s possible that what you post or share online may be there forever.
It's possible that what you 'post' or 'share' online may be there forever. Even if you have sent a 'private message' to a friend, or you have made a post that you later delete, it is possible that it will never be permanently erased. For example, other users could take 'screenshots' of your messages and posts or they could create screen recordings of a live stream or story. As a consequence, your friends, parents, caregivers, work colleagues and current or future employers may later see it.
“Once posted, always posted”
If you have made a post that refers to suicide or suicidal behaviour it can be helpful to monitor your post regularly for unsafe or harmful comments.
Interacting with others through comments and posts is a key element of engaging with others online. If you have made a 'post' that refers to suicide or suicidal behaviour, or you have shared or replied to a post that involves suicide-related content, it can be helpful to monitor your post regularly for unsafe or harmful comments (see below for examples of harmful comments).
If you do come across unsafe or harmful responses to your post, you should avoid arguing with other users in the comments section.
Instead you could consider doing the following:
Responding to someone who may be at risk of suicide can feel like a big responsibility. If you see a post that suggests someone may be at risk of suicide, you can find some tips on how to respond in the Responding to someone who may be suicidal section.
If you do come across suicidal content online, it’s important that you also look after yourself. Some helpful tips for looking out for your own wellbeing are available.
Include contact information for help services, such as helplines, local suicide prevention services, or local emergency services.
Sometimes you may not be able to monitor your own 'post' regularly, you may no longer want to monitor your post, or you have shared content that can't be monitored on the 'social media' platform you are using.
If this is the case, in your original post, you could include the phone numbers or 'links' to appropriate help services, such as helplines, local suicide prevention services, or local emergency services.
Social media platforms often encourage the use of images, photos, videos and other multimedia. However, these can sometimes have unintended harmful consequences
Interacting with others through comments and posts is a key element of engaging with others online.
If you have made a 'post' that refers to suicide or suicidal behaviour, or you have shared or replied to a post that involves suicide-related content, it can be helpful to monitor your post regularly for unsafe or harmful comments or content.
Here are some examples of harmful content:
Whether you are an occasional or frequent user of social media, be aware that sometimes repeated exposure to negative content could impact upon your own wellbeing.
Whether you are an occasional or frequent 'user' of 'social media', be aware that sometimes repeated exposure to negative content (e.g. conversations, images or videos about suicide) could impact upon your own wellbeing. It’s also possible that a one-off 'post' may trigger negative thoughts and feelings. It’s important to have a plan in place in case you do feel upset or troubled by posts that you have shared or seen.
If you are feeling upset or overwhelmed, there are a few things that you could try:
Images, photos, videos and other multimedia can sometimes have unintended harmful consequences, particularly if they portray a person who has died by suicide.
'Social media' platforms often encourage the use of images, photos, videos and other multimedia. However, these can sometimes have unintended harmful consequences, particularly if they portray a person who has died by suicide.
Images, photos, video content or animations that depict a method of suicide or self-harm or the location of a suicide should be avoided. These can be upsetting to others who may be grieving and may lead to copycat behaviour by other people who are feeling vulnerable.
It is also recommended not to 'post' or 'share' images of people who have died by suicide looking dishevelled, threatening or clutching their head in distress. These images can reinforce negative stereotypes of a suicide and may be upsetting to others.
A trigger warning is a statement at the start of your post that alerts other users that the post may contain distressing content.
If your 'post' does include graphic or descriptive content or content that might be distressing to others, you should consider providing a 'trigger warning' in your post.
A trigger warning is a statement at the start of your post that alerts other users that the post may contain distressing content. The trigger warning should be positioned at the beginning of your post so readers can make an informed decision about whether or not they continue to read the post. It should also include a link or information on available support services.
If your post contains images, photos or videos, you should consider providing a trigger warning first and posting the content in the comment section or feed below so that other users can decide whether they want to see your post or not.
Remember to check your post for any unhelpful language, descriptions, images or graphic references to self-harm or suicide and remove them before you publish your post.
Only disclose the personal details you feel comfortable letting others know about.
If you decide to 'post' about your experience with current or previous suicidal thoughts, feelings or behaviour online, consider that other people in your life who don’t know about your experiences might find this out as a result of your post.
You may also receive a mixture of both positive and negative responses. Think about what aspects of your personal experience you wish to disclose and remember that you don’t have to 'share' everything. Only disclose the personal details you feel comfortable letting others know about and leave out any information you would not want everyone you have ever met, or will ever meet, to know about you.
☎️ Online and phone support services
📔 Social media platform resources
☎️ Call 000
For less urgent assistance, contact one of the following support services.
Provides free 24/7 telephone, online, and video counselling and crisis support to all Australians affected by suicide.
☎️ Call 1300 659 467
🌏️ Visit suicidecallbackservice.org.au
Provides free 24/7 online and phone personal crisis support and suicide prevention services to all Australians.
☎️ Call 13 11 14
🌏️ Visit lifeline.org.au
Provides free and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling for children and young people aged between five and 25 years.
☎️ Call 1800 551 800
🌏️ Visit kidshelpline.com.au
Provides email, chat and phone counselling for young people aged between 12 and 25 years. eheadspace operates seven days a week, from 9:00am to 1:00am AEDST.
☎️ Call 1800 650 890
🌏️ Visit eheadspace.org.au
Australian suicide prevention resources available through different 'social media' platforms.
Facebook Help Centre has a number of tools to help people who have come across suicide-related material. The Suicide Prevention Help Centre provides information on how to report suicide content to a trained member of their safety team who will identify the 'post' and the location of the 'user'. If necessary, they can contact emergency services to assist those at risk of suicide or self-harm. The Suicide Prevention Help Centre also provides information on country-specific suicide prevention helplines to assist people who may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, feelings or behaviour.
Instagram Help Centre provides details to assist users to report content that suggests a person may be at risk of suicide or self- harm. Users can report content by
The help centre also provides links to suicide prevention websites and hotlines that can assist people during a suicidal crisis.
Snapchat Support Centre recommends users who are concerned about a fellow user encourage the person to seek help or consult with a professional service. If users don’t feel comfortable engaging with the person who may be at risk of suicide, they can report a safety concern by:
Twitter Help Centre provides information on how to report self-harm and suicide-related content to a trained team devoted to responding to people who share content that suggests they may be at risk of self-harm or suicide. Information on how to recognise the signs of self-harm and suicide are provided, as well as an online form to alert the Twitter suicide prevention response team.