“No one believed when I said I will kill myself – so watch this,” said 22-year-old Erdogan on camera before he shot himself. About 37 seconds into the four-minute video clip, the gun went off and the camera went black. This was in 2016 when Facebook had introduced their ‘Live Streaming’ button.
Since then, there have been many who committed suicide before a live audience. The most recent incident was much closer to home. Amit, a Gurgaon resident, hung himself after a row with his wife. He streamed the whole act live on Facebook.
“By live streaming suicide, a person tends to rationalise and justify his actions to a wide audience on why he is doing what he is doing. In many instances, we have seen a confession preceding the actual act, where the person shares how he was harassed or broken,” says Dr Sandeep Vohra.
In some cases, the act has been demonstrated in front of an individual who is directly or indirectly the cause, like a boyfriend or a family member.
In a video that had gone viral in February this year, Gurtej Singh Dhillon, a 35-year-old man in Punjab, shot himself. Before shooting himself, he went live on Facebook and claimed that his uncle had cheated his father of his share in the family property and the administration had also refused him help. He asked for a judicial probe before trying to kill himself. In a similar instance, an 18-year-old West Bengal woman hung herself on the ceiling and reportedly streamed the incident on Facebook to her boyfriend who was watching it live.
“In a way, a person is trying to fix the responsibility subconsciously on the viewer that the person responsible for them taking the step is either brought to justice or understands that they are responsible for driving them to commit the act,” adds Dr Vohra.
When a 24-year-old youth in Agra committed suicide in July this year, about 2,750 users went online to watch the live stream on Facebook. Shockingly, not even one of them reported the matter to the police or the victim’s family.
“It is called the ‘bystander effect’ when the viewer assumes that some other viewer may take the initiative and ends up just being the viewer,” explains Ms Akanksha Pandey, consultant clinical Psychology, Fortis Hospital Bangalore. ”It can also be termed as ‘mob mentality’ when a person goes into acute stress and does not know how to react,” adds Dr Parul Tank, consultant psychiatrist, Fortis Hospital Mulund.
For many, streaming their suicide online is a ‘cry for help’. However, when people assume that someone else will take the initiative to stop the act and don’t do anything, it breaks down the victim’s trust furthermore and adds to their helplessness. ”Live streaming suicidal act could be their way of showing anger or sadness resulting from extreme helplessness and hopelessness,” says Ms Pandey.
To help the victim is such a scenario, Dr Vohra advises engaging the person in a conversation about his loved ones or sharing a positive anecdote about life. ”One can also share spiritual wisdom while talking to such a person.”