Beware of suicidal minds online

Beware of suicidal minds online

What many initially assumed was a stunt to attract people's attention online turned out to be a real suicide by a frustrated 19-year-old in Luzhou of Southwest China's Sichuan province.

The most shocking part: the horrifying act was seen live on the Internet on Nov 30.

And the saddest part: the teenager might not have committed suicide had he not been instigated or egged on by some sick and mindless "live viewers".

The tragedy teaches us about the kind of role we should play if we encounter such extremities in this Internet era.

The teenager, surnamed Zeng, chose to interact with netizens via his weibo, or micro blog, after contemplating suicide and posted dozens of online messages about what was going on in his mind, along with some photographs of sleeping tablets, tapes and a charcoal fire in a pot.

After a "failed love affair" with a girl in the virtual world, Zeng fell into depression.

The youth shared his state of mind with netizens before deciding to take his own life. "I've decided to leave the world after deep consideration, and don't persuade me to live. I just hope it won't be too painful," read one of his weibo posts.

"I cannot bring myself to live any more as the drugs have taken effect and I've lost strength completely ... ," he wrote.

Many netizens tried to persuade him against committing suicide, but some dismissed his determination as a "ploy" to grab wider online attention and quite a few urged him to go ahead with his plan. "You have not died after such a long time and you must die" now, a netizen told him.

No one thinks the skeptic netizens actually wanted Zeng to take his life. And the doubting Thomases' remarks should be judged in the light of their assumed belief that Zeng would not commit suicide. But sadly the teenager was serious.

Nothing can be more painful than a young life extinguishing in front of so many pairs of eyes without anyone being able to stop it.

Of course, it is easy to blame the teenager for his disregard for life and his fragility. Youths of his age have been encountering similar emotional upheavals since times immemorial, but most of them have been able to put their lives back on track overcoming failed love affairs, career setbacks or failure in exams.

There is a catch here: emotionally unstable youths have always needed the help of relatives, friends and well-wishers to tide over their crises.

So whenever we come across a puzzled or depressed youth, it becomes our duty to help them regain their senses. A comforting word and encouragement to fight can almost always set things right; they can instill a sense of belonging in a puzzled mind.

We have read or heard about migrant workers desperately demanding their due wages from employers, failing which they have threatened to jump from the top of tall buildings with some indifferent onlookers urging them to go ahead with their threat.

The Luzhou teenager, too, is not the first one to commit "live suicide" on the Internet. According to incomplete data, dozens of similar incidents have been reported in recent years. Several suicide attempts have been posted online even after Zeng's tragic death, but fortunately no one else has died because timely measures were taken to thwart them.

Given that incidents like Zeng's go viral on the Internet and set a disturbing precedent for other youths, it is the incumbent duty of the entire society to put in place measures to prevent such cases.

For example, while netizens who see such incidents unfolding immediately report them to police even if their authenticity is not confirmed, the police should give emergency response and seek possible assistance from suicide prevention professionals.

More importantly, netizens should not instigate anybody to go ahead with his/her threat.

Stricter monitoring of the Internet, especially to prevent such cases, is an immediate need, and it should include studying the feasibility of "earmarking" some sensitive words such as "suicide" to set off an alarm in cyberspace which can be picked up by police and suicide-prevention organisations.

Love and care, as opposed to indifference and cynicism, are needed to help desperate people in desperate situations to see the other side of truth, and thus life, and look to the future with hope.


Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800

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