Everyone is on Facebook these days. The site has grown into a huge part of our lives and the way we communicate with others—for better or worse. It’s a vast open space we share with most of the rest of the planet, and while it can be used in all kinds of cruel ways—harassment, hate speech, and bullying—sometimes it can be used as a force for good, too.
That’s what one group of strangers found out this week, when a seemingly innocent Facebook post took a deeply disturbing turn.
But they had the perfect response—and changed a stranger’s life forever.
Many communities have their own buy/sell/swap groups on Facebook, where people can try to sell their used items to other locals looking for a bargain. There’s one such group in the Gold Coast, Australia, called “Gold Coast buy, sell and swap with easy rules !!”
But on Monday afternoon, one man made a very unusual post: he offered a large number of possessions, including three video game consoles, two laptops, a DVD collection, and $300, in exchange for “one favor.”
Intrigued by the mysterious offer, the group members inquired what the “request” actually was.
But his answer was something no one was prepared for:
The man insisted that this was “not a joke,” and that “the favor was simple.”
Whether or not the man really expected someone to take him up on his offer, the other users rightly pegged it as a cry for help. When one user jokingly question the logic of the “trade,” he responded with some dark thoughts:
So the online strangers rallied to help him.
Fearing this man was in real danger of self-harm, people wrote encouraging, positive comments, and implored him to seek professional help.
A few comments, according to news.com.au:
Message me anytime you want to vent.
There’s plenty out there to live for.
Where are you at the moment?
Please think of the good things. Your life is worth so much more
Get real help my friend. I was where you are one year ago. Now life is wonderful. Believe in yourself
Please call a family member, friend or Lifeline.
If this is a cry out for help there are people who will help you.
You aren’t alone.
But as he continued expressing dark thoughts, the strangers kept imploring him to get real help—and eventually a group admin contacted an emergency number.
The depressed man eventually stopped commenting—but the other users got signs of hope that the man actually sought help.
While for privacy reasons the police couldn’t confirm if they helped the man, they did say they were called under circumstances that matched the story:
“Police were called to an incident in relation to a person possibly intending self-harm and that a person received medical attention,” a QLD Police spokesman told news.com.au.
And then another woman, apparently the suicidal man’s mother, chimed in, both to apologize for any distress her son caused, and to give them an update:
The man had voluntarily checked himself in to a hospital.
Emergency services showed up at their home, and the man agreed to admit himself to a local hospital for diagnosis and treatment. And the commenters’ hopeful comments had definitely played a major part in the decision:
“The messages of support are overwhelming,” the mother wrote, adding that her son was “really taken aback by everyone’s kind words and encouragement.”
There are plenty of internet horror stories about people being goaded into committing suicide. It’s not hard to imagine how this story might’ve ended differently.
But luckily, there are still good people on the internet—and they have the power to change everything.
If you or anyone you know needs help, please contact your local Lifeline.
Australia: Call Lifeline on 13-11-14 or the 24-hour Suicide Call Back Service 1300-659-467
United States: Call Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255
Canada: Call Lifeline on 1-833-456-4566
Other countries: See list of international numbers