Local prosecutor and mental health group share insight into social media and suicide

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – There are a lot of discussions and questions surrounding social media and suicide after Michelle Carter was sentenced to 15 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter. Carter encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas.

She was sentenced to 15 months in jail for involuntary manslaughter. Carter encouraged her suicidal boyfriend to kill himself in dozens of text messages and told him to “get back in” a truck filled with toxic gas.

“People using text massaging or Facebook or some other communication device in order to share their feelings is a way for them to ask for help,” Lisa Smith said.

Smith is the executive director of Mental Health America of Northeast Indiana. They are part of a coalition called STOP Suicide Northeast Indiana. According to their website, it’s an alliance of stakeholders who seek to raise awareness and take action to stop suicide. Smith said as technology and social media continue to evolve, organizations like theirs have to keep up. “There’s an opportunity for people to learn better techniques for picking up on suicide because a lot of times people aren’t doing face to face communication.”

In Indiana, there is a code for assisting in a suicide. Chief Deputy Prosecutor Michael McAlexander said it’s a level 5 felony that could come with 1 to 6 years in prison. “I think the legislature has tried to keep up with the changing technologies.”

McAlexander doesn’t recall a case like this in Allen county but says if something was ever filed, it would because very fact sensitive. “What influence the person had over the person that’s contemplating suicide, what physical actions or verbal or electronic communication actions they took.”

Although people have a variety of opinions on the carter case, McAlexander thinks because of the rarity, the law is enough, for now. “Realistically not too many people are encouraging other people to commit suicide and until we saw I think a trend going that way i don’t think that we need an additional law to cover that.”

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UPDATE: Friday afternoon it was announced Conrad Roy’s mother is suing Melissa Carter. According to CBS, Roy’s mother Lynn Roy filed the suit in Norfolk Superior Court, her lawyer confirms to CBS News’ Erin Moriarty, claiming that Roy’s death has caused $4.2 million in reasonably anticipated lost wages and Carter’s reckless conduct caused Roy to suffer “severe personal injuries, great conscious pain and suffering of body and mind and ultimately death.”