Facebook
Facebook is launching a suicide-prevention effort based on user's reports. Image: Flickr / MoneyBlogNewz/CC-BY

Averaging more than an hour a day, people on Facebook tend to share much of their life. Now, Facebook is offering friends and family of people in crisis a way to get their friends help, directly on Facebook.

Suicidal shares reported

Starting today, Facebook is going to offer a new feature on all news feeds. If a friend or family sees a status update that they find concerning or think may indicate a wish to do harm to themselves or others, they can “report” the status update to Facebook. Facebook will then send a message directly to the individual, offering immediate help through Facebook chat or a phone call. The help is only offered if the post is manually reported. No algorithm would be able to accurately sort through the billions of posts added each day.

Quick intervention is key

The chat-support function built into Facebook is a relatively new feature, run by the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

“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.”

The service will be available 24 hours a day, with on-call crisis center workers ready to respond to chat support requests.

A willingness to share

Sharing on Facebook, for many people, comes as naturally as breathing. Facebook is considered a public forum, which means that the information posted to Facebook is not covered under the HIPAA medical privacy law. This means that the information shared could be used by companies attempting to scrape the network for insurance or employability information. Despite this, many people are much more willing to share on the social network, including their mental state or future plans.

Sources

PC Mag: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2397551,00.asp
USA Today: http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/story/2011-12-13/facebook-suicide-prevention/51867032/1
Today’s THV: http://www.todaysthv.com/news/article/185004/288/Bart-Heller-murder-suicide-discovered-on-Facebook
NPR: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2011/12/13/143652652/facebook-aims-to-prevent-suicides-with-online-help?ps=sh_stcathdl

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