Facebook Launches Suicide Prevention Effort | News & Opinion | PCMag.com

Facebook Launches Suicide Prevention Effort

Leslie HornBy Leslie Horn

December 13, 2011 09:59am EST


Facebook on Tuesday launched an initiative that gives users who have expressed suicidal thoughts the option to connect directly with a crisis counselor via Facebook chat.

“One of the big goals here is to get the person in distress into the right help as soon as possible,” Fred Wolens, Facebook public policy manager, told theAssociated Press.

Facebook doesn’t troll the site in search of those who might be suicidal; with 800 million users who generate billions of posts, Facebook’s algorithm could easily misinterpret comments. Instead, the new initiative is dependent on people speaking up when they feel a friend might be in danger.

If a person spots a troubling post, they must click the settings button next to the comment and select “report.” Facebook will then email the individual with the number to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline or a link to start chatting confidentially with a counselor.

“The only people who will have a really good idea of what’s going on is your friends so we’re encouraging them to speak up and giving them an easy and quick way to get help,” Wolens added.

If someone searches “suicide” on Google or Yahoo, they will be provided with the number for the Lifeline. In the past, Facebook would direct users who it felt were expressing suicidal thoughts to the same channel via email.

Now Facebook is stepping up its efforts by putting its users directly in touch with help.

“The science shows that people experience reductions in suicidal thinking when there is quick intervention,” said Lidia Bernik, associate director of Lifeline. “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.”

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for further comment.

Earlier this year, Facebook teamed up with Time Warner for an anti-bullying campaign. But the social network’s efforts started last fall via a “Network of Support,” which includes the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), MTV’s a Thin Line campaign, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the Trevor Project, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), and Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Facebook and GLAAD initially partnered up to tackle hate speech on the site after a series of inflammatory comments were posted on a page dedicated to the memory of gay teens who had committed suicide.

If you or someone you know has had suicidal thoughts, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is accessible via suicidepreventionlifeline.org or 1-800-273-TALK.

 Facebook Launches Suicide Prevention Effort | News & Opinion | PCMag.com.

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