Dealing With Distressing Content Online

Dealing With Distressing Content Online

Next Monday (September 10) is World Suicide Prevention Day and here, Alison Michalk (main photo), CEO of Quiip, offers her tips for when distressing content gets posted to your social media…

As a brand or organisation you might think a suicidal or distressed post won’t appear on your Facebook page or array of social channels. But when it’s 10pm and a user sends a distressing Snapchat to your brand account, what do you do?

These types of posts will catch you off guard if you’re not prepared. It can be distressing for you as social media manager or brand manager and you’re likely to panic.

With World Suicide Prevention Day coming up (Sept 10), it’s a timely reminder than billions of people use social media and it’s very likely that you’ll come across distressing content in your forays online.

As community managers we are often ‘first responders’ and in a unique position to help people online. With this in mind, it’s important you’re prepared and have already thought through the steps you can take.

Even if it doesn’t happen on your brand page – do you know what to do?

In the last eight years we’ve worked with numerous mental health and high-risk communities and here are the tips we’ve developed for helping people online who are in distress.

Quiips Tips

  1. Take all posts seriously, even if you suspect they are not.
  2. Suicide – look for intent, and means. (Such as a date and method).
  3. Separate the issue from the “risk.” For example, just focus on the user’s safety not the issue they are talking about whether it’s financial hardship or a relationship.
  4. Acknowledge the strength it takes to speak out/ask for help. “You’re posting here, that’s a great step.”
  5. Be non-judgmental. Don’t use negative wording.
  6. You are the ‘first responder.’ Refer to relevant professional helpline or online chat services. (Mention if it is free, anonymous, etc. Mention that Kids Helpline services 5-25 year-olds).
  7. Show empathy. Be in the “dark” with them; don’t try to cheer them up quickly.
  8. Reassure them they are not alone and there is help out there.
  9. Offer actionable help.
  10. Ask a question to invite further dialogue (where appropriate).

Have a list of professional helplines on hand, whether a good ol’ fashioned sheet on the wall or in your phone. There are also many fantastic online communities to support people including beyond blue, SANE and

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Alison Michalk quiip

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