Facebook Tacked On Suicide Prevention

This week, Facebook announced that it would be putting forth new tools for its users to use for suicide prevention. While those tools are already available in the United States, the resources are now going to be made readily accessible to users on a global scale.

The tools in Facebook’s suicide prevention arsenal are designed to help both members who are considering committing suicide or otherwise hurting themselves and the friends and families of people who are concerned about the health of their loved ones.

fb2If a Facebook user falls under any of these categories, he or she can contact the vulnerable person directly or use Facebook as an intermediary, as Facebook has recently hired entire teams of workers trained to help members in distress. According to the Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis and researcher Jennifer Guadagno, the teams are trained to help the member find help “before pain or sadness turns into something far more serious.”

Facebook’s original suicide prevention program was launched in partnership with other mental healthcare providers like Forefront, Lifeline and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education. These entities supply tools on their websites such as links to suicide prevention hotlines, links to guide users to friends, family or other professionals who might be able to comfort them and talk them through whatever situation, and links to toll-free numbers to mental health groups.

Facebook has also started to provide links to eating disorder organizations, websites offering self-care tips, and websites made for reporting cyber bullying and other unacceptable and abusive behavior. Links for parents or teachers who believe a child may be at risk are also listed.

Now that Facebook will be listing resources globally, they have organized all of these resources into local languages where members are based. For people in difficult situations where it’s a real challenge to communicate through traditional challenges, these resources can be the difference between a problem being managed and it spiraling our of control.

“The idea is that Facebook provides assistance vis a vis their network to people who are concerned about somebody,” explained Jennifer Stuber, faculty director at Forefront. “They see a post about a potential suicide or people who are suicidal, [and] they provide access to information about resources.”

fb3“Facebook has been incredibly responsive and interested in hearing from experts and users of their tools to improve them,” observed Save’s executive director Dan Reidenberg. “They have continually worked to try and help people who are in anything from a minor crisis to a major life-threatening situation, and they have developed some of the best technology and tools to save lives.”

While suicide may be an unfamiliar thought to some, almost 43,000 Americans killed themselves in 2014 alone. Tragically, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in America overall and the second leading cause of death among those ages 15-24.

Facebook’s status as having over 1.65 billion active users makes it the world’s most powerful social network and gives it a unique and enormous opportunity to reach out to those struggling with thoughts of suicide.

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