Facebook To Add Suicide Prevention Feature

Business / Tech

Facebook is adding a feature that allows friends to alert Facebook if someone posts a message that suggests suicide or self harm. It seems that over the years I have heard multiple stories of young men and women, after being bullied at school or online, self mutilate or take their own lives. It is something that none of us like to talk about, and that’s for good reason, it is a very difficult subject to discuss. We do not want our vulnerable loved ones being subjected to the hate and ignorance that oozes from people who use the Internet as a mask, yet social media plays such an integral role in today’s social settings. Cyber bullying is no joke, and while it is all too easy to take an old school approach and say that kids just need to toughen up, science has to take precedent at some point, and science has told us that Facebook and social media can have a fairly dramatic effect on self image, especially if you are an adolescent or young adult.

While Facebook has taken a lot of the blame for being a catalyst for cyber bullying and self image issues among users, their latest feature takes some steps to offer help to those in need. With suicide rates high – CBS estimates about 1 person commits suicide every 40 seconds – and Facebook’s user base almost 3 times the population of the US, it stands to reason some users might need some help.

The way Facebook’s new service works is that if you see a friend post something that might concern you or indicate that they are contemplating self harm or suicide, you can report it to Facebook. Facebook employees, who already look through posts reported for nudity or spam, will read the posts and determine if it is cause for concern. If it is, next time that user tries to log into Facebook, they will be greeted with the message:

A friend thinks you might be going through something difficult and asked us to look at your recent post.

The page will also provide resources for suicide prevention, a result of working on the project for 8 months and consulting with organizations like Save.org and other suicide prevention groups along the way. Of course there are will be pros and cons to this new system, essentially offering psychiatric advice over the Internet is murky water, and it has yet to be seen how well it will work. Facebook has said that around 60% of people did not explore the provided resources.

According to Facebook, 25 percent chose to contact someone, and of that group 30 percent got in touch with a suicide prevention helpline.

The service is going to phased in over the next few months in the US followed by other countries at an unknown time.

What do you think of this service? Do you think it is Facebook’s place to intervene? Have you ever had an experience where you wish a service like this existed? Let us know in the comments below or on social media!

  Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Featured image courtesy The Telegraph.

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