By Chris Boyette
A social media thread proved strong enough to pull a New Jersey teenager back from possible suicide, according to authorities.
And it was a social networking first for officers from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department -- using Facebook and other outlets this week to track down and help a troubled 18-year-old whose three-word online posting seemed to say suicide.
"Thinking of jumping," the teenager posted to his Facebook profile, alongside a photo of the George Washington Bridge spanning the Hudson River.
A concerned Facebook friend who saw the post contacted police in Paterson, New Jersey, alerting authorities to the apparent suicide threat, according to Port Authority spokesman Joe Pentangelo.
The alert was just the beginning. Pentangelo gave this scenario of events:
Paterson police called Port Authority officers, who serve the major bridges and tunnels of New York and New Jersey.
A photo of the young man was downloaded from his Facebook page and distributed to officers searching the bridge -- unsuccessfully -- for the teen among the bridge's pedestrians.
An officer assigned to Port Authority police's emergency services, Lt. Thomas Michaels, set out to contact the young man through Facebook, leaving his cell phone number on the page and urging the teen to call him.
And Port Authority Sgt. Nadine Rhem also took to Facebook, sending more offers of support and assistance.
Other Facebook friends of the young man saw what was happening and sent messages of their own on the social networking site, urging the teen to call Michaels.
Within a matter of hours, Pentangelo said, Michaels received a phone call.
It was the young man.
He told Michaels he was on a bus in Patterson, and Michaels insisted they meet in person to talk.
After the officer and the teen met and talked, Pentangelo said, the teen volunteered to be taken to a local hospital for help.
While Port Authority police have used social media before to investigate threats and gather information, Pentangelo said, this was the first time social media was used to reach out.
And a potential suicide subject reached back.
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