Facebook Offers Tools for Those Who Fear a Friend May Be Suicidal
“If I hadn’t already been educated in suicide prevention or hadn’t seen the post on Facebook, I don’t know that I would have picked up the phone and known to call,” said Ms. Simmons, who is a real estate broker in Seattle.
With more than 1.65 billion members worldwide posting regularly about their behavior, Facebook is planning to take a more direct role in stopping suicide. On Tuesday, in the biggest step by a major technology company to incorporate suicide prevention tools into its platform, the social network introduced mechanisms and processes to make it easier for people to help friends who post messages about suicide or self-harm. With the new features, people can flag friends’ posts that they deem suicidal; the posts will be reviewed by a team at the social network that will then provide language to communicate with the person who is at risk, as well as information on suicide prevention.
The timing coincides with a surge in suicide rates in the United States to a 30-year high. The increase has been particularly steep among women and middle-aged Americans, reflecting widespread desperation. Last year, President Obama declared a World Suicide Prevention Day in September, calling on people to recognize mental health issues early and to reach out to support one another.