During its Compassion Research Day meeting, Facebook announced that it planned rolling out a set of tools that will assist users expressing suicidal thoughts, along with their concerned families and friends.
Overall, the announcement was very good news for many mental health professionals and suicide prevention forums.
“[Social media] got a bad rap because there has been a call for help that hasn’t been answered and that’s what Facebook is really trying to do, provide tools to its users to change that,”
said Jennifer Stuber from Forefront, a Seattle-based mental health group.
Ms. Stuber added that currently there are 41,000 deaths by suicide in the U.S., but many of them could have been prevented if social-medias had been more proactive since many of those distressed people had at least a Facebook account.
In its effort to curb the suicidal tendencies, Facebook allied with Save.org, Forefront, and the Univeristy of Washington among others, while it also consulted suicide survivors that became counselors. The feedback those organizations and individuals gave Facebook were a vital investment into its new prevention tools.
However, Facebook it is not at its first attempt to tackle suicide. In 2011, the company launched a suicide prevention page where users could post suicidal text and images of their peers. Still, the process of reporting a potential suicidal was not too smooth. But the new tools are designed to make things a little easier.
According to the company, its users will be able to flag a post as suicidal from within the post. The tool will also allow Facebook users to either text the troubled person or contact another Facebook friend or expert for help and guidance.
Facebook will review the posts flagged as potentially suicidal and decide whether to pop-up a series of suicide support links and screens when the distressed individual logs back into their account. He/She will be redirected to professional help sites and support groups such as Now Matters Now and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
However, the tools are currently scheduled to become available only for a few users in North America, but Facebook will roll them out in other U.S. states too, as well as other countries. Nevertheless, Facebook underscored that its suicide prevention tools were not a substitute for suicide emergency services.
Mental health experts believe that the new tools will be literally life-saving, since many families and friends do not know how to properly handle the situation since there’s a deep ingrained social stigma on mental health issues, including suicidal behavior.
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