Jackie Ngarande suicide attempt: What Facebook says
“We don’t want to censor or punish people in distress who are attempting suicide. Experts have told us what’s best for these people’s safety is to let them livestream as long as they are engaging with viewers…”
Why did Jackie not just kill herself off Facebook?
Distressed and in need of some help?
MANY Zimbabweans were left traumatised and distressed Tuesday afternoon when socialite Jacqueline Tinovimba Ngarande threatened suicide on her Facebook Live. For someone with many followers as Jackie does – 135,000 on Facebook alone – the message travelled far within minutes.
Jackie’s hair-raising moment on the edge
Public suicide is not new, but technologies such as live streaming have helped these haunting public acts reach far more people. It’s a new phenomena in Zimbabwe but elsewhere in technologically advanced societies, it is rampant and worrying.
Jackie’s followers had to endure a torrid 24 minutes on the edge as it appeared most definite that Jackie was on a path of no return. She cried and pleaded for forgiveness to those she said she had failed, but insisted that she had done her best to be a good person but was not being appreciated, a message apparently directed at those very close to her, possibly a partner.
It can be said that had some lady not intervened in the end, Jackie’s Facebook Live was sure set to end tragically as she appeared to be reaching out for whatever tool, object or substance she had decided to end her life with. However, many readers commenting on the HourlyHits platforms demanded to know why Facebook did not cut off the disturbing live feed to save her followers the anguish of witnessing a death.
“My husband and I frantically reported her page to Facebook hoping she would be switched off and saved from ending her life, but we were worried as nothing happened,” said one lady from Kwekwe, who says Jackie has helped her on some financial issue before. “I know of at least two other people who tried the same intervention but nothing happened.”
However, the fact is it is Facebook will allow users to livestream attempts to self-harm because it “doesn’t want to censor or punish people in distress who are attempting suicide”, according to The Guardian.
However, the suicide footage will be removed “once there’s no longer an opportunity to help the person” – unless the incident is particularly newsworthy.
While Facebook has been around for over a decade now, Facebook Live launched only in 2016 but has been used to commit gory acts as much as it has been put to good use. Because it is arguably the largest network, it has in place tools to assist prevent suicide as was about to happen for Jackie. However, the tools work in a rather different way that what most of Jackie’s friends hoped.
Why Facebook won’t cut off suicide broadcast
According to Facebook community guidelines, people concerned about a friend who is streaming about suicide can report the video to Facebook, but Facebook will not necessarily take out the person’s feed and kick them out, as that might not help the victims at all. Instead, Facebook provide resources to assist the person streaming who can then choose to reach out to a friend, contact a helpline or see tips.
Also on HourlyHits: Zuckerberg under the spotlight
It is possible that such tools popped up at Jackie’s screen, although she appeared to have the camera blacked out during the entire broadcast.
THE PERSON STREAMING ON FACEBOOK LIVE ABOUT SUICIDE WILL SEE RESOURCES ON THEIR SCREEN SO THEY CAN FIND HELP. THEY CAN CHOOSE TO REACH OUT TO A FRIEND, CONTACT A HELPLINE OR GET OTHER TIPS. SOURCE: FACEBOOK
As for cutting the feed, Jennifer Guadagno, Facebook’s lead researcher for suicide prevention, previously said: “Some people may say we should cut off the stream the moment there’s a hint of somebody talking about suicide, but what we learned from the experts and what they emphasized to us is that cutting off the stream too early removes the chance of someone being able to reach out and provide help.
“In this way, Live becomes a lifeline. It opens up the opportunity for people to reach out for support and for people to give support at this time that’s critically important. Users post self-destructive content as a cry for help, and removing it may prevent that cry for help from getting through.”
A Facebook policy update regarding situations like Jackie’s reads: “We’re now seeing more video content – including suicides – shared on Facebook. However, because of the contagion risk [ie some people who see suicide are more likely to consider suicide], what’s best for the safety of people watching these videos is for us to remove them once there’s no longer an opportunity to help the person. We also need to consider newsworthiness, and there may be particular moments or public events that are part of a broader public conversation that warrant leaving up.”
The goal, says Facebook, to connect people in distress with people who can help.
Why did Jackie not just kill herself off Facebook?
To those who read widely, there was an incident a few years ago when a 14-year-old girl hung herself in her home in the U.S. on Facebook Live. She died as the world watched. There is also the case of a middle-aged aspiring actor shot himself in a car on a Los Angeles street, again on Facebook Live.
And a young Turkish man who had broken up with his girlfriend told viewers before committing suicide on Facebook Live in October: “No one believed when I said will kill myself. So watch this.” All these and more examples show the seriousness issues of suicide must be taken with, especially when still at the threat level like Jackie’s.
There are some comments on Jackie’s Facebook wall which suggests that some people believe she was play-acting for clout or views. They asked why she didn’t just throw herself off a high-rise building or shoot herself or kill herself anyhow without brining the drama to Facebook.
Such statements are unfortunate as they belittle a huge problem society is facing. Emotional trauma is real, and Jackie depicted the picture of someone with a heavy heart that had not unloaded for a long time. One hopes the hair-raising moments she gave her loved ones on Facebook helped reduce the stress in her system, and that she is getting counselling and all other forms of support in her difficult moments.
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But as for why she took the issue to Facebook, it is only Jackie who knows. People commit suicide in public ways for any number of reasons. They may be hoping someone will stop them. They may want to share their pain with the world. They may be trying to memorialize their death.
The worry, though, is that suicide is devastating for the people who view it and could encourage others who are struggling to attempt it. One of the strongest findings in the suicide contagion literature is giving people ideas about how to kill themselves.
Social media has all sorts of characters and people who genuinely love Jackie must not be put off by negative comments she also garnered, such as those which dared her to “why don’t you just kill yourself already?” Having people daring those in trouble is not new at all.
In 2008, a Florida college student overdosed while streaming the video on his webcam. Of the viewers who witnessed the act, some pleaded with him to stop, others urged him on. In 2007, a 42-year-old father of two from Britain hung himself on camera while in a chat forum that encouraged people to insult one another. Again, some of the viewers egged him on.
The negative reactions must not deter the good people, as there are instances when authorities were able to stop Facebook users from committing suicide.
Distressed and in need of some help?
After all is said and done, the huge take-home from the suicide attempt by Jackie is that emotional distress is real and the best is to seek help from trusted sources at the earliest opportunity. Killing oneself is never is solution.
Where one needs the assistance of strangers who will not judge them in future, Zimbabwe has organisations one can reach and we provide the hotlines at the bottom of this article.
We must all check regularly on colleagues who are showing signs of heading for an emotional breakdown; left alone, they can easily and quickly harm themselves.
Want some help for yourself or a colleague in distress? Samaritans is a registered charity organization whose prime objective is to assist persons who have problems and distress of a nature likely to result in the deterioration of their mental or physical well-being, a condition which if allowed to persist may lead in those persons contemplating suicide.