Man Tests Facebook’s Suicide Prevention System, Gets Locked Up

Rob Wipond
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San Mateo’s Shane Tusch decided to test Facebook’s new suicide prevention system by posting a fake notice that he planned to kill himself, according to SF Gate. He was promptly locked out of his Facebook account and forced to read through mental health education materials to open it, and was later arrested by police and detained in a psychiatric hospital for 70 hours.

“He faults Facebook for what happened, adding that the social network should stay out of evaluating whether people are suicidal,” reported SF Gate. “It should be left to family and friends,” Tusch told the newspaper. “There’s too many areas for this to be misinterpreted by what people post.”

SF Gate reported that, “San Mateo police said Facebook didn’t call them about Tusch, but they did not identify who did.”

In light of the case, Consumer Watchdog has called for Facebook to “suspend the suicide prevention program until it is fully protective of the rights of all individuals and contains safeguards against abuse.”

“Some suicide prevention experts supported Facebook’s efforts,” stated SF Gate. “It’s usually not a good idea to joke about killing yourself, they said.”

A man’s fake Facebook suicide post gets him detained (SF Gate, March 14, 2015)

Facebook’s New Suicide Prevention Program Leads To False Imprisonment Of Man In Mental Institution; Consumer Watchdog Calls For Suspension Until Safeguards In Place (Consumer Watchdog, March 12, 2015)

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Rob Wipond
Rob Wipond is a Victoria, British Columbia-based freelance journalist who has been writing on mental health issues for fifteen years. His research has particularly focused on the interfaces between psychiatry, the justice system, and civil rights. His articles have been nominated for three Canadian National Magazine Awards, six Western Magazine Awards, and four Jack Webster Awards for journalism. He can be contacted through his website.

8 COMMENTS

  1. Aside from being an invasion of privacy, despite that the post is public, that would still be his business what he chooses to express, a couple of other things come to mind.

    First, it seems to me that being ‘locked out’ of Facebook at a time when a person might need his or her community of support, more than anything, would seem like a stupid idea, if we are to empathize with someone who claims to feel suicidal. In so many cases, FB and social media are some peoples’ sole means of community support and social contact.

    Second, why do we choose to call the police or whomever to pull a 5150 instead of reaching out and saying, “Is there anything I can do to help? Do you need to talk?” etc.

    The responses from Facebook, an anonymous caller, the police, and a psychiatric lock up all led up to what seems to me like an incredibly complicated, costly, cold, and demeaning way of responding to someone in crisis, when a simple reaching out from a caring, concerned, and openhearted person would more than likely have done the trick. I imagine this was this guy’s point, which I think is brilliant.

    So where are all the caring, concerned, and openhearted people? Not on Facebook, apparently.

  2. http://deletefacebook.com/

    The last thing you want to do is call police to “help” a suicidal person unless you want to help them them get killed.

    It took police approximately 18 seconds for police to determine Jason Harrison was dangerous enough to to kill, even though his mother had only called for them to take him to a hospital…

    http://rt.com/usa/242409-cops-shooting-dallas-video/

    A (incomplete) timeline of fatal shootings of mentally-ill individuals by U.S. cops in 2014:

    January 5, 2014: A North Carolina family calls 911 for help when their schizophrenic son, Keith Vidal, begins acting out. The 90-pound 18-year-old winds up dead.

    January 25, 2014: Lodi, California, police officers receive a call from a woman who says her brother—a veteran with PTSD—is “going crazy.” Less than twenty minutes later, her brother winds up dead.

    March 16, 2014: Albuquerque officers fatally shoot James Boyd, a mentally-ill homeless man they’re trying to prevent from camping in the foothills.

    April 2, 2014: Matthew Pollow, a 28-year-old with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, is fatally shot by cops outside his mother’s apartment building in Boca Raton, Florida. In a statement, investigators say Polow charged a deputy with a screwdriver before being shot.

    April 7, 2014: Tinoris Williams, a mentally-ill 31-year-old in Palm Beach, is shot in the head after struggling with an officer who mistakes him for a burglary suspect.

    April 13, 2014: A Santa Clara, California, woman calls 911 to say she’s suicidal. Police open fire when she answers the door holding a baseball bat, fatally wounding the 53-year-old.

    April 30, 2014: Milwaukee police fatally shoot Dontre D. Hamilton, 31, a schizophrenic who is laying face-down in the park when police arrive.

    June 6, 2014: A Norfolk, Virginia, family call 911 for help with their schizophrenic relative, 35-year-old David Latham. Latham winds up dead.

    June 14, 2014: A Dallas mother calls the cops for help taking her schizophrenic son, 39-year-old Jason Harrison, to the hospital. Harrison winds up dead.

    August 11, 2014: Los Angeles cops fatally shoot Ezell Ford, an unarmed 25-year-old suffering from unspecified mental issues. The circumstances surrounding the shooting are still unclear.

    http://reason.com/blog/2014/08/20/mentally-ill-killed-by-cops

    Suffolk police were summoned to the Maryhaven Center for Hope group home in Middle Island at 8:18 p.m. after the staff was unable to bring Simmons under control, Fitzpatrick said.

    Simmons, had been causing a disturbance at the facility for nearly 30 to 40 minutes before staff called 911, Fitzpatrick said.

    By the time officers arrived, Simmons — a resident at the home for the past six years — had calmed down and was sitting on a couch in the living room, Fitzpatrick said.

    Officers told Simmons they were placing him in handcuffs and taking him to a psychiatric emergency facility and that is when Simmons became violent and fought the officers, Fitzpatrick said.

    The officers killed Simmons with their Tazer high voltage stun guns.

    http://www.google.com/search?q=+Dainell+Simmons

    Also check out http://www.killedbypolice.net

    • We do seem to have a big brother problem in this country. And copycat, the US police are now also taking people to hospitals for lying in a park watching cloud formations, too. Then the hospital does a $5000 forced physical, with no HIPPA forms signed, resulting in a “medically clear” diagnosis. Then, in the middle of the night they ship the patient a long distance, back to the exact same doctor who medically unnecessarily “snowed” the patient three years prior (her partner V R Kuchipudi was eventually arrested for doing this to many patients).

      Isn’t that a staggering coincidence, however, in a city and suburban area the size of the Chicagoland area, given the doctors had no signed HIPPA forms? This results in forced confinement for a week, proof I’m allergic to the neuroleptics, so I was forced medicated for a non-existent UTI, and given an “adjustment disorder” stigmatization. The staggering lengths the mainstream medical community goes to cover up a “bad fix” on a broken bone, and a “Foul up” with Risperdal.