Yesterday, I saw a previous edit of this question. In it, the OP seemed desperate, if not suicidal.

Now, Mi Yodeya is not a posek or a rav, nor do any of the rabbanim with accounts here act as such in this context. Keeping this in mind, how do we deal with serious and precarious questions, such as the one linked above without going against our normal community standards or risking greater harm ?

  • And the user just posted the question again.
    – Alex
    Commented Nov 13, 2018 at 2:54
  • More discussion below my answer but I wanted to also note here so people would see it. There was an earlier version of this linked post about a massage parlor. By the same user. It was completely inappropriate and, after I flagged it, deleted. If a moderator can post the text, we can use it to make better judgements. The user's repost was better, though still edited heavily by Mi Yodeya. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/96835/…
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 19:36

3 Answers 3


The official-ish guidance on the Stack Exchange network for responding to suicidal words in our content is in this Meta Stack Exchange post, whose core is the following guidance from Community Manager Shog9:

I hate to sound callous about this, but... This isn't a support group; y'all probably aren't trained to deal with the outpouring of grief and despair of someone you've never met and may have absolutely nothing in common with. I'm certainly not. Indeed, there's a decent chance that leaving a post like this around could end up just making things worse.

Therefore, I strongly recommend the following:

  1. Close the post as Off Topic, with a comment like this:

    It sounds like you're going through a really hard time. I'd really like to help you, but unfortunately, we're not well-equipped to do so here. Your best option is probably to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. People are on call there to talk to people struggling with the same kind of issues you are, regardless of location. US: +1-800-273-8255. If calling's not good, they can chat with you live online. Just go to this site, and you can talk with someone online from 10PM-6AM UTC: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/LifelineChat.aspx It might not help, but what's the harm?

  2. Flag for a moderator who can lock or delete the question to prevent discussion from continuing in the comments.

  3. For any credible threat of bodily harm - whether targeted at the author themselves or someone else - use the contact us option at the bottom of any page on the site to let us know about this. If need-be, we'll follow up to make sure the situation is handled appropriately. Moderators can and usually should use the “contact community team” option in the “mod → actions” menu on the user’s profile page.

In general, when a post indicated desperation on the part of its author, that is, as Shog9 indicates with respect to suicide, not something we as a community are trained or equipped to deal with. This concept should be familiar to Yodeyans due to our strong rule against soliciting or offering personal rabbinic guidance. I think it's a good, human thing to do to express compassion, but don't harbor or provide any expectation that this community can solve the author's problem. Your heart may be crying out that this is an emergency, and not a time to apply some website's rules, and your head must understand that that's the path to potentially doing more harm than good, and the higher the stakes, the worse harm you might do. The best you can do is express compassion and recommend that the author seek appropriate professional help.

May we all manage to find the help we need, when we need it, where we are.

I agree with Cyn that if you believe that a post is trolling, you should flag it for moderator attention. Including why you believe it's trolling in your flag can be very helpful to moderators' response.

  • Would you say that my comments when I flagged the posts (I did this twice) were adequate? If this happens again, I would like to make sure my reasons are clear. I assumed everyone else would see them as trolling and I was wrong. So perhaps I should have given more reasons in my flag comment.
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 15:52
  • @Cyn In general, putting text to justify your concern is helpful, even if you think it's obvious. Also, even when we strongly suspect that a post is trolling, deleting it is not always the best response, depending on the situation.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 17:28

I saw these posts under discussion, and FWIW:

1) I saw nothing in them to suggest actual suicide.

2) I actually thought this was 80%+ a troll or group of trolls having a prank to see how frum Jews react, as some others have suspected.

Now I am not a licensed health professional. However, for over 25 years, I have had experience in the role of Rebbe, teacher, mentor, Rav etc. because of my work in Yeshivah and outreach, including manning suicide hotlines as a volunteer at times. I am also a Talmid Muvhak of R' Wolpin ZTz"l Rosh Yeshivah of Karlin Stolin, and so there are some frum young people who ask me questions all the time.

On MY, I have sometimes reached out to what appeared to be a troubled soul, by posting my support in the comments and offering my email address if they needed someone to talk to. At the same time, I found a way to gently warn them that the site was not made for the activity they wish to pursue here.

Usually they do not contact me.

Sometimes over the past 3+ years, some of them did reach out. I remember for instance speaking with a struggling ger tzedek candidate, a legitimate bochur who really needed tefillin, and a guy who was so depressed because his marriage was falling apart etc. as well as others.

When they first talk to me, i explain that I am not their Rav or doctor etc. so if they have real medical issues or serious practical Halachic questions, they should ask their professional. If they don't have one, I offer to help them find one. If they do not wish to expose themselves to an expert, I listen to their issue and act as go-between with a posek or doctor so they are not held back by shame etc.

Usually, however, they just want to talk to someone who can listen and they won't need to see in shul after their confessional :) Most Halachic questions are pretty simple and B"H I can answer them.

So what should we do about future posts?

1) We should definitely let the mods and community continue to do what is needed to keep the site under control including limiting inappropriate posts.

2) When that is done, someone needs to post a comment offering real heartfelt concern over their issue while apologizing about not being able to have this forum act as the outlet they need.

3) We can post for them a good hotline # and/or website to someone/place that we honestly think can help.

4) Any one of us who is brave enough can offer an email and time to listen to them vent. Taking it private and safe (because your email is private etc) and maybe doing a mitzvah.

5) Personal time permitting you can always contact me at [email protected] and ask me to give them my email and an invitation to talk it out.

But if a troll is really identified or a 100% harasser etc., then the best thing is the mods clean it up and no one talks to them. :)

Just my 2 cents.

TY, David


I didn't see this as desperation. I saw it as Mi Yodeya having a troll. I don't know if it was the same troll or a different one who posted the question about being ashamed to go to the mikvah.

In both cases, I flagged the posts and gave my opinion on why I thought they should be closed. I don't yet have enough rep on this site to vote.

And in both cases, someone heavily edited the questions to make them look legit.

These are questions that come off to me as completely fake. Phrases like "me a poor yeshivah student!" and going on about a friend who has "a small weiner." I don't have access to the originals anymore so I'm going on memory.

The sleeping with a non-Jew question involved the author claiming to have innocently gone into an Asian (very stereotypical and unnecessary to specify Asian) massage parlor and being "seduced" into sleeping with the woman who massaged him. Yeah, no. Women don't take those jobs in hopes of finding cute men to sleep with. They do it because they need the money. Sex with the massage costs a lot more and nobody does it by accident. It's simply impossible. Never mind how he ended up there in the first place.

"I had sex by accident" (and its counterpart, "I just couldn't help myself") is the sort of line that only shows up in fiction. It's so common that it's a flag that advice columnists use to figure out which questions are fake.

I'm sure that there have been and will be questions coming from people who are sincerely desperate. I just don't think these questions are sincere. They come from one or more people trying to make fun of this community and disrupt it. Trolls.

  • 1
    I don't think this is a troll. His other question seems valid. The weiner question, which might have been a reason to doubt his sincerity, came from a different user
    – b a
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 17:39
  • 1
    The two questions coming so close together make me wonder if it is a couple of troublemakers (or a group of them). Multiple users doesn't mean they're separate people. It's hard to judge the validity of questions without seeing the originals: these questions were all heavily edited to be appropriate for the site and I didn't see the 3rd original.
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 17:45
  • You can see the originals by clicking on the "last edited" time. None of the questions are deleted
    – b a
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 18:47
  • I looked at the original of the post in the first link up top. While it talks about the massage parlor business, it's not the original I saw. Maybe that was a different post. It was really over the top. This one sounds more sincere, though still a bit unbelievable. The other one, wow, not legit in any way. And clearly the same person based on the details. That same user has posted 3 questions. This one, one that was not edited saying please don't delete, and a 3rd unrelated question that was fine with no edits made except to the title.
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 19:24
  • Found it. The 1st massage parlor question was different. I got the URL off my profile page (under raising a helpful flag) & the ID# is not the same as the linked post above. Moreover, this post is deleted altogether. So it looks like someone saw my flag, agreed that the post was inappropriate, & deleted it. The person came back with a different version of the same question that got edited and kept. Same username, Fortnite User. I can't see deleted posts so can't quote it. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/96835/…
    – Cyn
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 19:28
  • @Cyn the first instance of this question, which you linked, was closed as Off-Topic for "asking for a practical ruling," which was undeniably appropriate, as it actually addressed Mi Yodeya in the second person as "Rav." It also contained a statement about extreme desperation. A comment was left recommending that the author seek professional help. After I was sure (based on "last seen" time) that the author had seen that recommendation, I added a comment saying "This post is intensely personal and sensitive and does not belong on this public forum, so I've deleted it." and deleted the post.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Nov 14, 2018 at 20:53
  • @Cyn I was wrong about nothing having been deleted but I had this one in mind judaism.stackexchange.com/q/96878/1569
    – b a
    Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 11:30

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