Wikipedia:Do not engage suicidal individuals

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Wikipedia is a place where anybody can search for information or find answers to their questions. It aims to be, and is seen by most people as, a civilized and welcoming community. In serving the public, Wikipedia inevitably attracts some people who feel that there is no one to turn to for emotional support, and so they ask for help from total strangers. Some of these people are considering harming themselves, and responding inappropriately to these people could have tragic consequences. However, as an online encyclopedia staffed by untrained editors, Wikipedia can never provide the expert help these people need. The most we can hope to do is to point them towards a source of help. This guideline covers the proper response to a message on any talk page or Reference Desk which seeks or responds to help for Suicidal ideation.

Wikipedia is not a counseling service[edit]

Wikipedia cannot provide the expert help a suicidal person needs. Most editors are not trained to deal with this sort of crisis situation. Even for those editors who do have such training, Wikipedia is not the proper place to provide medical or counselling advice. The most we can do, for a person who is contemplating harming themselves, is to respond sincerely and to point them towards a source of help. (See a list of crisis hotlines below.)

Basics of responding to suicidal people[edit]

To avoid the appearance of distancing yourself from the person, template messages should never be used when responding to a suicidal person. Instead, try to write a short, sympathetic, and to-the-point message. Acknowledge that the person is in distress and encourage them to seek help immediately from an appropriate crisis hotline listed below. Never provide a medical diagnosis or attempt to personally provide a counseling service. Wikipedia cannot adequately provide the help they may need. If you are responding to a message posted on a public Wikipedia talk page or Reference Desk (as opposed to a user talk page), it may be best to respond on the suicidal person's user talk page. In this case it is important to leave a short message attached to the person's original post which includes a link to their talk page, and a short message indicating that you have responded on their user talk page. Without this note, many users (particularly new or IP address users) may never think to look for a reply on their user talk page.

How NOT to respond to a suicide message[edit]

When responding to a message which seeks help for a suicidal problem, never revert their post under the assumption that it is trolling — not even if there is very good evidence that this is the case (i.e. the editor is a repeat offender). Even if they have posted similar statements or threats in the past, those may be legitimate cries for help. They may be testing the water to see if anyone cares about them. Or, they may have been trolling in the past but are genuine on this occasion. Undoubtedly, some suicide posts are merely trolling; however, because of the seriousness of the issue, it is important to always assume that the editor is genuinely suicidal.

It is equally important that Wikipedia editors never respond to a suicidal message with personal attacks or humor. People who are considering suicide often feel that they are isolated from society and that there is no one who cares about them. Responding in an aggressive way will almost certainly increase the person's feeling of isolation. Responding with humor, no matter how well intended (eg. as a way of lightening their mood), may well have a similarly disastrous effect. This may be a life-and-death situation for them, not one where levity or humor is an appropriate response.

Dealing with improper responses from other editors to a suicide message[edit]

Humorous or derisive posts written by other editors in response to a suicidal message must be treated as an especially severe infraction, given the seriousness of the subject. Any improper response to a “cry for help” should be immediately reverted. The offending editor should then be given a {{subst:uw-chat3}} or {{subst:uw-npa3}} template; and an attached message asking the editor to read this page so that they will know how to properly handle similar situations in the future.

List of crisis hotlines[edit]

In the event of a suicide crisis anywhere on Wikipedia, please recommend the suicidal individual seek help from the following free resources. (Note that not all are international.)

This site can be used to Geolocat an IP address.




South Africa[edit]

Southern Africa[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

United States[edit]

See also[edit]