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Referring in particular to this one: How to deal with depression privately and how to let my family know about it?

There are other questions on this site that deal with talking to family members about difficult subjects. Usually those people are lacking in some kind of interpersonal skill (or needing to establish boundries), which makes them on topic here.

In this case, however, it's not really a case of the OP's communication limitations, but the culture in which they live. As such, it's borderline on topic here (in my opinion).

That said, I can see us getting future questions like this. People may come and see the other questions (like How best to come out to socially conservative (and religious) family members?) and ask questions like this one, especially if they're depressed and are looking for help.

While a "normal" off-topic question would be closed (and that would be it) these kinds of questions are asked by people who are obviously struggling and in need of real help. Even though closing the question may be a necessity (depending on its meeting the criteria), it may be a good idea to have a means of also supplying them with links to suicide help lines, etc.

We could do that in the comments. Or, we could have a "canonical" question/answer with a more detailed answer supplying this kind of information (perhaps used as a "duplicate" closure option for future questions like this). This is why I've answered the question referred to above.

Since comments are meant to be temporary (and not contain answers), and comments are character limited, I feel like it's more appropriate to write an answer instead.

This is probably the most involved I've got into a SE site before, so I don't know if this is the way things are done or not around here. Is just giving links in the comments enough, or would a canonical answer be a good idea?

(I know there's no obligation to do anything in these cases, but I do personally want to give the OP a bit of direction to get help if possible)

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    In this case I've followed the guidance given for suicide cases, and notified a Community Manager at Stack Exchange, who said that they will reach out to the user. – Mithical Apr 12 '18 at 11:30
  • @ArwenUndómiel great, I didn't know that such a policy existed. – user6818 Apr 12 '18 at 11:49
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    You can find it on Meta.SE: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/243700/… – Mithical Apr 12 '18 at 11:51
  • interesting half-related meta: interpersonal.meta.stackexchange.com/q/1905/1599 – Tinkeringbell Apr 12 '18 at 12:35
  • I was talking about this in chat the other day! It’s great that someone else has brought it up. – Obie 2.0 Apr 16 '18 at 8:15
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As such, it's borderline on topic here (in my opinion).

I agree, it's very, very borderline. But, since there was a mention of suicidal thought in the first revision of the post, I think this is one of those cases where we have to err on the side of caution, and follow the SE guidance for posts that threaten self-harm or suicide. This means:

  • close the post as off-topic and leave an exceptionally nice comment
  • flag for a moderator, who can lock or delete the question to prevent discussion from happening in the comments
  • if the threat looks really serious, you can use the contact link at the bottom of every page, and SE will look into it and make sure it is handled appropriately.

Our own site has a meta's on how to react to such posts too: How should we respond to questions where the OP needs professional help? and Should we send [depression] and [suicide] to trained professionals?. That one suggests voting to keep the question score at 0 in addition to what was mentioned above.

(I know there's no obligation to do anything in these cases, but I do personally want to give the OP a bit of direction to get help if possible)

I think both meta posts I linked to above should give you some kind of idea of the kind of comment that is allowed in these cases, namely, a comment that:

  • sympathizes with the OP, and acknowledges they're having a rough time
  • emphasizes our willingness, but inability, to help
  • point them towards professional help. This may be a link to a hotline or chatbot, but make sure it's for the right country.

I think what's important to remember is that one or two of these comments are enough, and that they should in no way focus on giving any other advice than to seek professional help.

Is just giving links in the comments enough, or would a canonical answer be a good idea?

In this case, a comment like described above would be enough. Questions where the OP mentions suicidal thoughts are supposed to be locked and deleted by moderators. I don't know why this one was deemed exempt from that.


That said, I can see us getting future questions like this. People may come and see the other questions (like How best to come out to socially conservative (and religious) family members?) and ask questions like this one, especially if they're depressed and are looking for help.

On a side note, we also had a discussion about where to draw a line for closing questions for needing professional help, although that focused more on third parties with mental health problems.

In my opinion, this question needs to be closed and treated seriously, because there's not yet any professional help involved. I think I might have left it open if there was already professional help, and this was just about telling the family about it within the context of a society that highly stigmatizes mental health problems. To me, it would then be more similar to the 'coming out' question as well. Even then though, the mentioning of suicidal thoughts is worrysome, and I'd have gone on a question-by-question basis for deciding to close and flag or leave open.

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