This article is part of the Here. Now. essay series, which seeks to de-stigmatize mental health treatment, and improve accessibility to treatment and support for teens and parents in metropolitan New York.
Social media, as wonderfully connective as it can be, can also be a harrowing, dangerous place. Tragically, one 12-year-old girl recently broadcasted her suicide on Facebook–and the police couldn’t do much to remove the actual footage from being online, according to The Washington Post. For both family and friends, this is utterly traumatizing.
Katelyn Nicole Davis, who lived in Polk County, Georgia, died by suicide on December 30, 2016, which she broadcasted on Facebook Live. BuzzFeed reported that the 40-minute live stream, which has now been removed, showed the girl explaining how she had been sexually abused by a family member–and then she’s seen tying a rope to a tree outside her family’s home.
The video started circulating on sites like Facebook and YouTube immediately. Unlike Facbeook, YouTube took the video down quickly because of its “violent or graphic” content, but versions of the video stayed on Facebook for nearly two weeks. Think about how many people saw that video before it was taken down–and how harmful and triggering it could be.
After the video became live, Polk County PD started receiving messages about the video–Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd told Fox 5:
“We want it down as much as anyone, for the family, and it maybe harmful to other kids. We contacted some of the sites. They asked if they had to take it down, and by law they don’t. But it’s just the common decent thing to do in my opinion.”
According to its policy, Facebook doesn’t allow self-injury or suicide on its platform, which makes it even more confusing that the video stayed up for so long.
What happened to Davis is absolutely devastating–and more awareness on how to support victims of sexual assault, and those who suffer with suicidal thoughts, is clearly in need right now. But it’s also endlessly traumatic and complicated that her suicide was live streamed–raising the issue that social media sites really need to be more proactive about how to deal with this kind of occurrence.
Please contact the National Suicide Prevention social media safety teams at 1-800-273-8255 if you see someone posting thoughts of suicide online.
This post is part of the Here.Now series, which seeks to destigmatize mental health,
and is made possible by UJA-Federation of New York and The Jewish Board.
You can find other educational mental health resources here.