I'm wondering if there are guidelines for being considerate while responding to mental health or similar appearing issues...

Specifically because I saw a 600+ word answer which was very confused. E.g. bringing up a complex, uncited problem on a pretty different system as an example, arguing that the fairly common issue in the question, was not actually caused by what the asker had thought. IMO 1) the answer was not relevant, 2) the user was affected by a mental health problem.

The answer was rendered just under the accepted answer. It had one upvote (dunno why). However it was sorted above two answers with 10 and 4 votes.

This was somewhat frustrating. If for some reason a bad answer is going to be "unfairly" favoured above more useful, higher ranked ones, the question would be improved by deleting it, downvoting to oblivion, or whatever. The posting did not fit SE's aims IMO.

In my asking, this came to mind. But I guess there's no point hoping a discussion like that could work half as well over here.

So the best option I think I have (if I decide to do anything), is "flag it and move on". I.e. get attention from moderators, suggesting the answer be deleted. Then a quorum can potentially leave feedback, make a decision, and act if appropriate. It might help avoid aggravating posters over a longer period - rather than downvoting with a comment to explain why.

Is that a good response?

  • 2
    did you perhaps have your answer-sorting set to "active", in order to get the lower-scoring post above a higher-scoring one? (addressing only a minor aspect of your question, I know)
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Nov 8, 2017 at 18:19
  • That explains that. Thanks, seriously :). I hadn't noticed the answer-sorting options. Not sure if it's a tool I'd use often, unless I can see the number of answers is high. Also the accepted answer always being sorted first, it feels a bit unfamiliar.
    – sourcejedi
    Nov 8, 2017 at 19:03
  • 3
    It’s a sticky selection across the site, too, so if you change it on one question, subsequent pages will sort that way as well.
    – Jeff Schaller Mod
    Nov 8, 2017 at 19:04

1 Answer 1


Yes, flag (or downvote) and move on is the right thing to do. We are neither equipt nor qualified to deal with users' mental health issues. Nor is diagnosing people over the internet ethical even if we were.

So, the only thing we can do is protect the site. If a post is nonsense, flag it as such, no matter what you feel might be the reason it is nonsense.

Now, if you honestly fear the OP may be suicidal, there is a nice post on the main meta with some suggestions of services you can direct them to:

What's the official SE response to serious mentions of suicide or self-harm in posts?

Apart from that, there really isn't anything we can do, so treat nonsense as nonsense.

  • I've tried re-wording the opening sentence of my question, to reflect the specific response I was trying to ask about. Thx for pointing out that other Meta, and I indeed don't want anyone to be posting or discussing diagnoses. By "Flag it and move on" I meant not to take any other action. "Downvote and move on" is generally not good, in my understanding, because the poster sees negative feedback without an associated reason.
    – sourcejedi
    Nov 9, 2017 at 15:38
  • 1
    @sourcejedi no, downvoting and moving on is absolutely fine. If you feel particularly generous, you may choose to leave a comment explaining your downvote, but there is no rule that says you should. In fact, such comments often lead to problems because some folks take it personally. That's precisely why votes are anonymous. And, again, I'm afraid there's nothing we can do and we must protect the site at large. If someone's mental issues cause them to post useless posts, then we must treat them just like any other useless post: downvote and move on or, if particularly eggregious, flag.
    – terdon Mod
    Nov 9, 2017 at 15:50
  • Thanks for your description of existing site norms & rules.[1] I would consider what I describe in the question as close enough to egregious, at least because it's rare enough to see, that I wouldn't feel guilty asking for moderator time. [1] Perhaps I selfishly want readers to understand when an answer is wrong, breaks down at point X, hence the question is still open... and showing the argument to join me in cancelling upvotes of the answer :). I think I'm also allowed to have my own opinion on how generous people "should" want to be, so long as I'm not causing any trouble.
    – sourcejedi
    Nov 9, 2017 at 16:43
  • @sourcejedi since you (very correctly) aren't linking to the post (thanks, no reason to point fingers) I can't give you a specific answer, but do feel free to flag. Flags are private and only mods can see them. And of course you're allowed your opinion! I was just responding to your statement that downvoting without a comment is generally not good, in your understanding, which I had misread as stating you thought that was the general consensus, so I pointed out it isn't. You are, of course, free to comment or not as you wish.
    – terdon Mod
    Nov 9, 2017 at 18:14

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