Twitter community rallies to stop tweeted suicide attempt [Updated]

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A Twitter community in South Africa rallied to prevent a potential suicide this weekend, as a Durban-based mother of two dramatically tweeted an attempt to take her own life.

The drama unfolded at 9:17pm on Friday night, with a series of tweets over a few hours from the user asking how much alcohol one should consume before “cutting an artery”. The tweets continued, becoming more emotional:

“…Please don’t save me, I just didn’t want to die alone”

“If u hate the mother of your kids, hurt her, leave her, break her down and take them from her and then isolate her. Take all she loves away.”

“…asking god almighty to forgive my final sin, love my angels, forgive my humanity, take my pain away.”

Soon an alert community of Twitter followers realised the series of tweets were genuine and began rallying to help the distraught mother. An editor of a major national newspaper also got involved in the Twitter rescue effort. Mail & Guardian editor Nic Dawes, a regular Twitter user, was one of the first to tweet for help, and began co-ordinating a search for the Twitter user.


Users on Twitter immediately responded, mobilising to help find the woman in an attempt to prevent her from carrying out the suicide. Twitter users also began tweeting messages of love and support to the woman, with @ThandyM tweeting “… girl I’m sure it looks like there is no other way pls don’t do what u planning on doing u have kids to think about.”

@angelaclarkZA also tweeted in support: “…don’t leave THIS legacy for your kids, be someone they can be proud of, THEY NEED YOU, no matter what you think right now!”

As the Twitter community rallied to help the woman, her tweets continued, becoming more alarming. Twitter users began re-tweeting the woman’s cellphone number and home address details in an effort to trace her.

Throughout the Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday morning various Twitter users joined the search for the woman’s location in an effort to save her, while the police and Netcare 911 were also called upon. As events unfolded, the hashtags “#findMary” and “#saveMary” * were created to mobilise support and assist the rescue effort.

After several hours, the efforts of the Twitter community paid off as the woman was located. By early Saturday morning there was a collective sigh of relief as the first tweets came through confirming the woman had been found and was with her family.

@eljaysa tweeted: “Feel really humbled by the power of twitter, the caring of people & the difficulties life can present to anyone.”

“Thank you Twitter. Because of you we found a loved member of our group,” tweeted @SynStalker.

Since the ordeal, the woman’s Twitter account has been deleted in an effort to protect her identity.

* Name substituted to protect identity.

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  • Travis

    There is more to this story than meets the eye. The tweeter in question, judging from her tweets of last night, is clearly troubled, and in need of professional help.
    But the real story here is how users of Twitter will go out of their way to support and reach out to a total stranger who may be in danger.Twitter is often belittled, by people who don’t use or understand it, as a medium for tweeting about breakfast. This incident proves that there is much more to it than that.Twitter is a community of people, most of whom have have never met each other, who have a sense of belonging and shared interest that extends far beyond their own point on the map.Twitter – and there are many other examples of this – is a case study of Ubuntu in action, of humanity connecting and interacting through the power of tehcnology This is the story memeburn should be writing about.

  • Gavin D.

    notice how her tweets were deleted. a cry for attention. just a show or a sham. i think so. she used others and playing on their emotions- she is selfish wanting to take her life. what about her kids. she’s removed all of her “unsettling tweets”

  • Haroun

    I agree, the human aspect of our being and using twitter is what’s important. I noticed these tweets in my timeline, the first one was a tweet saying she was with her family.

    I just wish more people would read me tweets and get in touch if I’m in trouble, haha :)

  • A friend

    You think so, do you, Gavin D? Good for you, judging people you don’t know and have never spoken to. 

    I understand people feel manipulated, or angry even, but did you consider how humiliating this might have been for her even before you decided that it would entertain you to make it worse? Did you consider anything at all before firing off your vicious barb?

  • Sheenagates

    I understand how A Friend feels he/she needs to stand up for Gina, but in fairness she should have thought twice before releasing her deepest, darkest thoughts out into the online universe. I hold no judgement for what she did, but I will say that EVERYONE needs to know that even strangers will begin to feel emotionally involved with a story like this, be it negative or positive. It’s the nature of the Internet. Not everyone will be understanding, you expect too much for all those who helped to just breathe a sigh of relief. There will always be animosity towards suicide, especially am attempt so openly broadcast online.

  • Sheenagates

    I understand how A Friend feels he/she needs to stand up for Gina, but in fairness she should have thought twice before releasing her deepest, darkest thoughts out into the online universe. I hold no judgement for what she did, but I will say that EVERYONE needs to know that even strangers will begin to feel emotionally involved with a story like this, be it negative or positive. It’s the nature of the Internet. Not everyone will be understanding, you expect too much for all those who helped to just breathe a sigh of relief. There will always be animosity towards suicide, especially am attempt so openly broadcast online.

  • Amy

    Preamble: I understand where you’re coming from — I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation at the time either — & so this is not meant as an attack, but rather as a call to caution in expressing this view so aggressively (none of us have all the facts). 

    Perhaps it was a “cry for attention”/”a show or a sham”; perhaps it wasn’t & was, instead, a genuine cry for help. Think, if you will, of what would have happened if we had all ignored her tweets & she had, in fact, taken her life & left her children with that legacy (let us suspend our convictions regarding the moral implications of suicide for the moment)… I’d rather be shammed than culpable.

  • Amy

    Preamble: I understand where you’re coming from — I wasn’t sure what to make of the situation at the time either — & so this is not meant as an attack, but rather as a call to caution in expressing this view so aggressively (none of us have all the facts). 

    Perhaps it was a “cry for attention”/”a show or a sham”; perhaps it wasn’t & was, instead, a genuine cry for help. Think, if you will, of what would have happened if we had all ignored her tweets & she had, in fact, taken her life & left her children with that legacy (let us suspend our convictions regarding the moral implications of suicide for the moment)… I’d rather be shammed than culpable.

  • Anonymous

    Well said Sheena.

  • Anonymous

    Well said Sheena.

  • Guest

    While this story is sensational, isn’t saving someone’s life is what we are suppose to do anyway irregardless of Twitter or not?

    What makes this story any more special than someone preventing another from suicide in real life?

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  • http://twitter.com/SimonBotes Simon Botes

    Of the roughly 175000+ attempted suicides every year about 8 000 South Africans actually succeed in committing suicide annually . 1 in 20 attempts (South African suicide trends - 2004 stats) 
    It’s easy to view a cry for help as a cry for attention until you are in the same boat. Imagine how desperate you must be    to put your entire reputation on the line to cry for help in the public domain.   I have the utmost respect for this distraught yet brave mother who did what she needed to do to get help when all seemed lost and when her real world “friends” provided no help. I really hope and pray that the many lifelines offered can be used.  

    To all those that helped a HUGE thank you. Together we are strong and have the power to save lives.

  • http://twitter.com/SimonBotes Simon Botes

    Of the roughly 175000+ attempted suicides every year about 8 000 South Africans actually succeed in committing suicide annually . 1 in 20 attempts (South African suicide trends - 2004 stats) 
    It’s easy to view a cry for help as a cry for attention until you are in the same boat. Imagine how desperate you must be    to put your entire reputation on the line to cry for help in the public domain.   I have the utmost respect for this distraught yet brave mother who did what she needed to do to get help when all seemed lost and when her real world “friends” provided no help. I really hope and pray that the many lifelines offered can be used.  

    To all those that helped a HUGE thank you. Together we are strong and have the power to save lives.

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