Photo of Riley via Facebook
17 year old Riley Matthew Moscatel died by suicide this week. Riley was a student at Bucks County Technical High School who also happened to be a transgender male.
I held off writing about this because most of the media coverage by local PA and national outlets has done everything wrong – they’ve misgendered Riley, they’ve attributed his death to causal factors that can’t possibly be known and they are sharing the details of how Riley was killed. Some are rewriting his mother’s direct quotes, others are alternating gender language. And most sites seems to be jumping to conclusions about why Riley ended his life via suicide.
Riley’s death is a tragedy, of course. But it is critical that we grasp the damage that we can do when discussing suicide as well as the opportunity to help others who are struggling. Satisfying our voyeuristic need for details is not a priority.
The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) has published guidelines for reporting about suicide, including how best to share news via social media.
My heart aches for the loss of any 17-year-old. Fully aware that being queer and trans in Pennsylvania can be difficult, we can’t know why Riley made this decision nor should we make assumptions. Not all trans youth are suicidal and not all youth who experience suicidal feelings or ideas are going to die. With strong support from family, friends and the community, people experiencing suicidal thoughts or even making attempts to end their lives can find the resources to recover and lead healthy, productive lives. To feel positive feelings and move forward.
We will post more details on final arrangements for Riley as they become available. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.
If you or someone you love is struggling with these or other scary thoughts, please know that there are people who want to help.
In Pittsburgh, you can call Persad Center (not a 24 hotline) 1-888-873-7723
LGBT Youth Crisis & Support Lifeline
The Trevor Project
Trevor Lifeline: 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
Suicide Crisis Line: 1-800-999-9999
National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Some social media tips (this includes linking to posts and articles about suicide)For those reasons:
• Don’t use Twitter or Facebook to announce news of suicide deaths.
• Don’t give details of a suicide death (for example, details about means of death) or the ages/personal details of
the victim on Twitter or Facebook.
• Don’t re-post problematic mainstream media headlines (for example, “Student, 15, Commits Suicide Over
Bullying”) on Facebook or Twitter. *Don’t talk about suicide “epidemics” in social media. • Be careful how you phrase things on Facebook. Because Facebook users routinely “Like” posts that
interest them or that they want to follow comments on, a post titled “Suicide Claims Life of Another Gay Teen”
could be painful for surviving family and/or create a public backlash if people start to “Like” it. Similarly, a
suicide-related post titled “Bullying Is Killing LGBT Teens” could increase contagion risk by suggesting that suicide
is a natural response to bullying.
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