Facebook Suicide Prevention Tool Launches

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Facebook today introduced another service on its website aimed at helping improve safety and protect the social well being of its members online – a feature that instantly connects to a crisis counselor to help people who have expressed suicidal thoughts on Facebook pages.

 

The move to help connect people who have suicidal thoughts follows similar changes the social networking website has made in order to promote safety while Facebooking.  Earlier this year Facebook made changes to the way people can report fake profiles, bullying, and offensive content. The new feature aimed at preventing suicides works by letting friends click a link next to a comment that they believe is a suicidal thought, and this comment is reported to Facebook, which then emails the poster, encouraging them to call a telephone hotline number or initiate a confidential text chat with someone by clicking on a link.

 

facebook-suicide-2011

Facebook introduces new features to help prevent suicides.

Fred Wolens explained to the Associated Press: “One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible.” Mr. Wolens is public policy manager at Facebook.  The social networking giant had already directed members to the hotline number through email, asking users to call authorities if they were concerned someone was in danger of hurting or killing themselves. The new feature expands on this by making it possible to instantly initiate a confidential chat session.

 

Lidia Bernik, project director at Lifeline, explained: “The science shows that people experience reductions in suicidal thinking when there is quick intervention. We’ve heard from many people who say they want to talk to someone but don’t want to call.  Instant message is perfect for that.”  Wolens said the thinking behind the new feature is that friends are really the only people that know what might be going on in someone’s mind, so they are encouraging them to say something and provide an easy, quick way to get help.

 

Wolens said Facebook does not search its websites for comments that suggest suicidal thinking because it would be logistically too difficult and computer algorithms would misinterpret what users said.  U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin praised Facebook for its efforts to help people considering suicide. “We have effective treatments to help suicidal individuals regain hope and a desire to live and we know powerful personal connections and support can be. Facebook and the lifeline are to be commended for addressing one of this nation’s most tragic public health problems.

 

Surgeon General Benjamin’s office said almost 100 people commit suicide every day in the United States, 36,035 a year.

 

 


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Author: David John Walker

Dave has a B.A. in Mathematics, loves writing and reading about the latest developments in technology and social media, and has been working as a freelance writer for five years.

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