What to do if we have serious concerns for the welfare of a DL forum user?
Recently I noticed a DL user who expressed serious distress and a suicide threat'. I am crisis and suicide intervention trained and think that we all should know what to do if we see such a post. We are a large community and there will be times when distress, which may indicate a true risk to the user's welfare, spills over into the forums. The moderators are unable to check every post in every discussion. May I suggest a plan for what to do if we come across a post that gives us serious concern for the user posting it? I expect other users will have experience and suggestions that can improve this, particularly as all my experience is face to face, not online or telephone, so please contribute!
Once we have agreed what to be done, I suggest DL staff should display this clearly for all users to see without a lot of searching. Would another sticky be too much? Where would be best to advertise it? I think this is important enough to translate into other languages for too. What do you think
So these are my suggestions for some guidelines:
How to spot a suicidal person online. Be alert to the possibility. Worldwide someone commits suicide every 40 seconds. Take all posts expressing serious distress or ideas of self-harm seriously, even if you see that the person has repeatedly posted in the same way. Do not assume that they don't really mean it. It is a myth that people who commit suicide do not talk about it first. Most people who commit suicide do talk about it first.
How to respond to the post. Do not ignore the post. You may save someone's life by taking action. The most appropriate person to respond to the post is a moderator or other member of DL staff.
Contact a moderator. Contact two moderators and email Abuse@duolingo.com. Include a full link to the person's profile, a screen shot of the person's comment, and a link to the post if the comment was made in a discussion post. To locate a moderator go to http://www.duolingo.com/comment/13007546. Try to protect the person's identity by deleting the message after sending it. Once the matter has been handed over to DL staff, you have done as much as you need. DL can privately signpost the distressed user to appropriate help. Your action may have helped save a life.
Note for DL staff/Moderators: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org seems to be a good website to refer people living in the USA to. Another international referral page is http://www.befrienders.org gives contact details in many countries. I'm no good at putting in links. Please change anything you want to improve it and correct any mistakes.
I am also trained and spent years working in crisis and suicide prevention. And I disagree with your idea that reporting to mods or abuse@duolingo is helpful. As has already been mentioned abuse@duolingo is not particularly responsive. And I have seen no sign of any training in this matter among staff. More importantly accounts are unverified so there is not much that can be done here.
Further I have seen kids playing suicidal on here for lingots and attention. If someone has a genuine concern it would be better for them to encourage them to seek real help which is not going to be found at this site.
It would also be good for those concerned to not make posts about the individuals they are concerned about in the forum encouraging everyone to go swarming to their profile (which has happened in the past). Overwhelming them with posts from strangers on the internet, many of which are kids with little or no insight into real life problems, is not helpful either.
When I have reported these incidences, staff have gotten back to me saying they've sent resources.
It would be fine if reporting to mods resulted in immediate contact to staff so they could receive resources. It would be nice if it also prevented messages from being posted to their account as well. However, we do need to recognize that this is an international site with no verification process so knowing what country a user is from is not easy therefore getting the right resources to them is problematic. Also, responding to a suicidal person in a way that is culturally appropriate can be tricky and well meaning people can do more harm than good.
It should also be noted that the skills for moderating and the skills for dealing with a suicidal person are very different and having mods intervene as anything more than as someone who can get staff attention quicker can also make the problem worse.
The last information I had from last year is that staff agrees: moderators should not be doing interventions outside of alerting staff to the situation.
As you've said, there are cultural considerations and staff have not trained moderators in how to do interventions.
I agree. The mods are simply alerted so that posts can be removed from view and DL staff informed. The mods and DL staff need to sort out their communication with us and each other in urgencies and emergencies, but it cannot be expected to be like a suicide intervention site. However I do believe the current situation can be improved if there are agreed and well advertised guidelines. As far as the international side of things is involved, of course some cultural mistakes may be made, but one of the websites I offered signposts to resources in many different countries. These will be culturally appropriate. The staff need to take proper advice themselves and formulate their guidelines. What cannot be done is nothing. DL staff do have a duty of care to all DL users.
Great to have your input. I agree mainly. Non-trained staff can signpost if given resources, and I have given two websites that can be used as resources. The post causing concern and all responses to it should be removed ASAP (not just hidden) to avoid any swarming of people contacting the poster. Further those responding, if responding kindly, can be thanked for their concern and assured that the person is being signposted to help, while being asked not to contact this person or other people posting similar posts further. No post should be considered as 'playing' suicidal for attention or lingots, just as no 'joke' about having a bomb packed in one's luggage however lightly made can be ignored. They must be taken seriously.
There are lingot begging posts that do in fact "joke" about suicide. Treating those the same as someone who has serious issues is not helpful to anyone and only encourages such behavior.
Thanks for the information. I'm a newbie and not seen these so cannot judge. But surely to take the posts down asap and signposting cannot do any harm? If people are seen to repeat the behaviour and are also not seen to engage in learning a language maybe their account should be discontinued, as long as they have been signposted. Nobody on the site can be presumed to have had training in this and a clear, but kindly worded, warning from staff that this is not the appropriate place for such posts and direction to the suicide help site is the best one can do together with discontinuing the account. However, as we have agreed, it is not up to us to decide if the poster is suicidal or not. The majority of us are not trained. Even if we were, one or even half a dozen posts will normally not tell us for certain. I would say that no post that anyone is concerned about or with a suicide threat should be reported. Do not expect the user to make a decision as to whether there is a risk. This is unfair with the I formation given in just one or a few posts. Then DL staff themselves need to make a policy on how to handle each report, and if they do not think they need to signpost and delete, possibly suspending or deleting the account they need to justify their decision, find another answer and take that responsibility and be accountable.
We have not agreed that and this is a good example as to why people here should generally not respond. Very few people here are good reading other people's posts without reading into it what they want it to say. Their responses are too often unhelpful, particularly in serious situations. And since they have allowed the children to take over the forum and use it as a playground, most of the adults have been moving away from duolingo forums. Leaving few people to respond with anything other than histrionics or an agenda.
Some people make it very clear what they are doing and duo has not held them accountable for playing this way. Which is another reason expecting duo staff to be able to handle this situation seems pointless to me.
Thanks again for your input. I think we are responsible for what we do, and not for what others do or decide. Unless we have actual power to change things all we can do is offer advice (even if that advice is to seek advice from someone who can help rather than give the final advice ourselves) and then it is up to the other person/people.
Rather than just saying what I am suggesting is pointless, what about suggesting something positive. At least if we users do what we can, and make positive suggestions to DL staff and mods we will have done our bit.
Sorry but for now I must stop this discussion from my end. I was volunteering last night, and today had a busy day. I need to sign off for now and get some sleep! But I hope there will be positive contributions overnight. Also I want to get on with learning some French tomorrow and I do believe I have contributed what I can. It is not perfect, but I do not believe however long we discuss we will get a perfect answer. However, with a variety of opinions maybe a moderator may be able to piece together a compromise that, while not perfect, is the best we can do under the constraints we have.
Thanks for all the input so far and for what will still come in.
Thanks for your message saying 'And here you go making accusations and not reading what I was actually saying. How very helpful.'. I have still had little sleep (told everyone I needed sleep as the reason for signing off at that time) , so this may be the reason I cannot see what I have said or done wrong in your eyes, or maybe I am misinterpreting what you have said? When I went to bed last night I had had only about 3 hours sleep in the preceding 72 hours. I had not wanted to be rude and walk out in the middle of a discussion, but I was simply too tired.
Now I have read and re-read the post here that resulted in your message (above quoted) and I cannot see what I have written that appears to offend you. Maybe I was a bit brief in my tiredness? But in the overall context of an adult conversation with a fellow trained crisis interventionist I cannot see what is wrong with what I wrote. I am not upset or offended in any way, just puzzled. Would you like me to fill out what I mean in that post to make it clearer? I have brought your comment into the discussion rather than reply directly as I welcome anyone who can help me to understand the dynamic here in our conversation to make a comment, and also I don't understand why you didn't say what you said to me in a public way. I am happy to receive appropriate criticism as are all mature adults. It is one of the things that helps us grow when we recognise that we can also be wrong, so I think you again!
You keep being rude in the forum and the mods have spoken to you about this yet left it here. Apparently this is the correct way to deal with this now. Silly me, I thought there were guidelines.
Thank you for this post! I am reassured to see what you, with training in crisis prevention, have to say. This is exactly what should be done (and is done).
If you notice someone in distress, notify a moderator (or several) via their activity stream. We can contact staff, who intervene and provide the Duolingo user with links and phone numbers for support available in their home country.
If I write to you on your activity stream, do you get an email notification? Can you read what I write to you via your email notification?
Just to highlight, if you are contacting moderators, please make your first comment something that does not mention the person's username. Then, attach the rest of your message to that one. This is because the first comment does not always delete. But, the comments attached to it do. After giving the needed information to moderators, please delete the message. This is to protect the person's privacy. It is unfortunate, but some people are entertained by harassing people who are in pain. So, protecting that person's privacy while Duolingo is getting that person resources is important.
Next, if you see someone harassing the person, please contact a moderator right away. Comments like "go kill yourself" and "just go die", etc. will result in an account ban on the person making such comments, if not account removal.
Abuse at duolingo is six months behind . . . Moderators are probably your best bet.
Really pleased you have posted this! Very good post and I am glad you have highlighted these specific points. I second all the pioints you have made and especially the point about taking it seriously, especially from when you first view a post.
Duo moderators need to be made aware as soon as possible, using duolingo and the Abuse@duolingo.com email is spot on.
Suicide is a distressing topic for a lot of people and as Duolingo grows and grows users may turn to the forums (just as people do on Facebook, twitter etc) to post their emotions and intentions.
Thank you for posting this.