Teen broadcasts suicide online

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Pembroke Pines, Florida teenager killed himself Wednesday, November 19, while broadcasting on the live video site Justin.tv. After making suicide threats and being encouraged by Justin.tv viewers and Bodybuilding.com forum members, Abraham K. Biggs, 19, committed suicide by taking an overdose of opiates and benzodiazepine, which had been prescribed for his bipolar disorder.

Biggs first began blogging about his planned suicide 12 hours before the actual event. He died after taking pills and lying on the bed in front of the webcam. After the broadcast, viewers who apparently thought it was a hoax posted messages such as "OMG", "LOL", and "hahahah".

Hours later, after being alerted by viewers who had noticed that Biggs had stopped breathing, law enforcement and paramedics arrived, discovered his body, and covered the camera. The Broward County Medical Examiner's Office has reportedly confirmed Biggs' death.

According to Montana Miller of the Bowling Green State University, the circumstances of this case were not shocking: "If it's not recorded or documented, then it doesn't even seem worthwhile. For today's generation it might seem, 'What's the point of doing it if everyone isn't going to see it?'"

Biggs' sister Rosalind was angry that neither the website nor its viewers reacted soon enough to save him. "They got hits, they got viewers, nothing happened for hours," she said. She described him as "very happy" and "friendly and outgoing." "On a normal day, you couldn't really tell that he got as low as he did." However, he did have relationship problems with his girlfriend, according to a friend.

Mental health professionals have warned about the possibility that other mentally troubled people would copy his actions. According to Dr. David Shaffer of Columbia University, "Any video showing it as heroic or romantic or glamorous could reduce the anxiety people might feel about suicide. It becomes a respectable behavior and lowers the threshold of suicide." He and other psychiatrists recommend that potentially suicidal teens talk to others and "tell what's going on."


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