Every year, almost 1 million people worldwide die by their own hands. While suicide awareness is a year-round concern, September is Suicide Prevention Month. For its part, in an effort to decrease suicides, Facebook has released a flowchart that demonstrates how people can seek suicide prevention resources on the social network.
Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s Chief Security Officer and a member of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s leadership team, wrote in a blog post,
At Facebook, where our mission is to help make the world more open and connected, we are committed to decreasing suicide globally by connecting people in need with the resources and people who can help them best. As the place where people share with their real-life friends, we have a unique opportunity to give people the tools to respond to calls for help.
The World Health Organization reports that every year almost one million people die from suicide. That is tragic. And the impact goes much further—studies show that each suicide intimately affects at least six other people. That means that globally, the impact of suicide is felt deeply by many millions of people each year.”
In addition to educating users on the resources available to them through Facebook, the network has partnered with 33 suicide prevention organizations around the world which can provide direct support through phone, email, chat, and SMS. Some of these partners also manage informational Facebook Pages. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, for example, awards “badges” to people who learn new suicide prevention tips through its Page.
For the rest of the month, Facebook will run a public service announcement on the network linking to the infographic.
Suicide Prevention Resources on Facebook
If you fear your friend has posted a message with suicidal tendencies, Facebook wants to educate you on how you can help.
From a desktop, you can find advice and resources through the following:
- Click “Report” on the upper-right corner of your friend’s post. Here you will find a list of resources to help your friend, the option to report the post to Facebook, and a suggested Facebook message you can write your friend to show your concern
- Search “Suicide” in the Facebook search bar
- Go to the Facebook Help Center and search for “suicide”
From a mobile device, you can report suicidal content directly from a Facebook post.
A Paternalistic Move or a Life-Saving Tool?
If you do, indeed, report a post to Facebook as suicidal, Facebook will send your friend a message during his/her next session explaining that a friend is concerned. Facebook will then provide a list of global suicide prevention resources, which your friend will have to review before resuming his/her session. In some situations Facebook deems “appropriate,” Facebook will attempt to contact local law enforcement for a safety check. You can check the Facebook Support dashboard to confirm that Facebook reviewed your report, though Facebook will not alert you if law enforcement was contacted.
While I appreciate that Facebook wants to do more with its access into our lives than just sell our personal information to marketers, I fear that that Facebook could take serious, potentially damaging measures when they are not called for. Imagine if a healthy person posts, “I have a flat tire – I hate my life!” to Facebook, and a friend wrongly interprets this as a suicidal remark rather than hyperbole. I would hope that, were Facebook advised of the post, it would not call law enforcement to check on the person. But are there checks in place to avoid this?
If used correctly, however, Facebook’s suicide prevention resources will help educate people on the reality of suicide and how to prevent it by offering others our care and support.
What do you think of efforts by Facebook and others to prevent suicide around the world?
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