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There’s a suicide problem with Twitch users and the company isn’t helping

In a Reddit post last month moderator of the Australian Twitch channel Badxan talked about the experience she had dealing with a suicidal Twitch viewer, saying the platform handled the incidents “shamefully.”

“After only moments of conversation with Viewer, it was evident that he was seriously suicidal and had self harmed within the past two days. I stayed with him on chat, and found out he lives on the other side of the world to me and no-one to contact urgently where he was. He was alone, and he was desperate and in danger.”

The viewer was threatening to shoot or hang himself on camera. Taking things into her own hands, Badxan decided to console them.

After using the Report: Self Harm function (which, the fact that it even exists tells you there’s something seriously going on in the world of Twitch), the viewer’s account was banned.

“I am absolutely infuriated at the (lack of) response and heavy handed approach Twitch has taken. If there was a person sitting on the other end of my Report function, I am dismayed and disgusted that they would sit there and ban a user when someone has requested urgent medical attention. If it this is a bot-ban hammer, I am even more disgusted that Twitch would use an automated feature to deal with vulnerable people who are at immediate risk of ending their lives.”

Badxan, who is also a certified mental health professional, looked for and found the viewer on Instagram and continued to console them through that platform. She has stated that she will not stay silent about this issue, and plans to continue opening discussions until the issue is fully dealt with.

It’s great that Badxan was there to help the viewer, really, more power to you, girl… But on the flip side, Twitch is a place to play and watch games. It’s not a place to threaten suicide and then put your life in the hands of those nice enough to comfort you.

Per Kotaku, streamer General Mittenz shared their own experience with engaging viewers who use Twitch as an emotional outlet.

“I make sure to tell them that I’m not a professional, and that everything I say, I say as someone that went through a similar situation. I always try to find common ground with the individual and then tell them that the best thing that I personally found to help was going to a professional.”

People like Badxan and Mittenz are wonderful for taking the time out of their day to make sure all their viewers are left happy and mentally healthy, but again, what’s the deeper issue here? Why has Twitch become a place where threats of suicide are even discussed?

“Some days I’ve had to say I can’t talk about anything due to just feeling emotionally drained, gamer Austin Marie shares with Kotaku, which can be hard cause I don’t want anyone to feel ignored or invalid in their pain.”

It’s not on any Twitcher, or Twitch for that matter, to placate suicidal tendencies. Again, while it’s great the platform has such a strong reaction to mental health and threats of suicide, this is still the internet. I can’t think of a single place more riddled with people who have mental health issues. Kotaku writes of Ellohime, a streamer who had a fan show up on his doorstep in 2015.

“Fans regularly fall in love—their words—with streamers. They can tune in, for several hours a day, to the streamer’s most charismatic portrayal of themself hanging out at home. It’s an intimate, familiar zone reflected in a funhouse mirror of mass appeal and endless excitement—the perfect recipe for a one-sided romance.”

While banning suicidal viewers isn’t a solution in and of itself, neither is feeding or supporting certain threats of self harm.

Was Twitch wrong for banning the reported viewer? Sure. Is Twitch wrong for attempting to skirt this issue? Yes. But they are certainly not to blame for the influx of self-harm threats, or your mental health.

The sooner we get to the bottom of this, the sooner we can figure out WTF is going on.