If you check the hashtag #suicidal on Instagram you’ll find more than 4 millions posts. Mostly from teenagers that are considering suicide, usually because they feel ugly, rejected, or alone. As I write, 50 suicidal posts have been published in the past 8 minutes. And that’s just one of a collection of very alarming hashtags like #depressed (8 million posts), #suicide (5 million) #killme (1,6 million) #suicidalthoghts (290K). The scenario we see emerging talks about an humanitarian emergency which is causing the death of one person every 40 seconds.
Instagram seems to be conscious about the issue and is doing something to help. If you try to access the hashtag #suicidal (or similar) you will be warned by this message:
“Please be advised: These posts may contain graphic content.
For information and support with suicide or self-harm please tap on learn more”
Which leads to the website of an association of volunteers called Befrienders Worldwide that helps prevent suicides by providing emotional support. Unfortunately, it appears that Instagram redirects to this website only those who search for the hashtag #suicidal (who may be just curious to see who’s desperate), while if you post with the hashtag #suicidal because you are considering to commit suicide you won’t be prompted to check that website (just tested it, perhaps there is something to review in Instagram’s mechanism?).
But the real question is: can we really remain indifferent in front of 4 million suicidal posts, mostly from young folks, hoping that Instagram or those volunteers will be enough to help? It’s all happening now, in real time, under your eyes. While you read this post dozens of people are suicidal and just 3 clicks away from you. Is there really nothing we can do for them? I think there is at least one small but powerful thing we can do: being kind. I don’t see a lot of people being kind to them. On the other side, I saw some idiot encouraging a suicidal guy to kill himself… (immediately reported).
Let’s be clear, they are not people that is easy to deal with and before even thinking about engaging with them you should read this advice from Befrienders Worldwide. And yet, in an Instagram context, it would be relatively easy for anyone to bring some positive vibe without need to get too much involved in other people’s problems.
These people feel so deeply alone, ugly, unwanted, with nobody caring about them. All one would need to do to help is just to be kind and care a bit. I would discourage to like suicidal posts (that would be almost an encouragement), or engage with these posts in general. You should avoid to connect to their negativity as that would risk to reinforce it and you would risk to absorb it. But you can still leave a nice comment on some other pic where they share something more positive, something you connect more to. For example I saw a suicidal girl who previously published a “10 things about me” in which she was rather cheerful, so I left a positive comment that acknowledged her uniqueness. Will it make a difference? One of the 10 things she wrote about herself was: “I love all of my followers and think it’s amazing that you take the time to say kind words to me”. Then yes, the kindness she receives from others seems to be one of the things that keeps her going. Every little helps.
I encourage not to fake kindness: you should care a bit about these people, look at what they post, try to see some sparkle of beauty in them. Maybe they are cute, or smart, or artistic, whatever it is just tell the goodness you saw in them. If they feel worthless, make them feel they can be important, if they feel ugly show them their beauty, if they feel like no one cares, show you care. You don’t need to be a hero, you don’t have to take responsibility for them, you don’t need to overdo it (and you probably shouldn’t unless you are qualified). You are not going to solve their problems and you shouldn’t even try, they are not even looking for your advice, they just need someone who listens and cares and be kind to them. Don’t forget that in the darkest night receiving a nice comment could make the difference between life and death, that’s how much your kindness can be important. See yourself with your eyes what an abyss of sadness our society is sprouting, how much these people feel alone, and how few are saying something kind to them: #suicidal on Instagram.
Everyone can be nice. It just takes a little, less time than posting a selfie or sharing a funny cat. A bit of kindness costs nothing, makes you feel better, and in this case might also contribute to save a life. If there is one practice that truly recurs in all spiritual traditions, that is the practice of kindness.
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now”.
Since kindness is increasingly rare in our dog-eat-dog individualistic and profit based societies, I decided to create a Facebook group for positive-minded people who also feel this world needs more kindness and are happy to provide a bit of theirs.
I called it Merry Kindsters. Here is the manifesto:
If you like the spirit of this initiative and you think it’s good to dedicate even just 2 minutes of your time to be kind to others, please join us and help spread the word!