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Facebook adds suicide alert system

facebookFacebook is teaming up with UK organization Samaritans to offer its users an outlet for suicide prevention. Facebook users can now visit the site’s Help Center to report concerns for friends, as well as link to distressing wall posts or status updates. The user will then be put in touch with Samaritans to help offer support to the friend in question.

Unfortunately, the reporting form is difficult to find. Only after searching through the help center were we able to track it down. Once we did find the correct page, it did look like a helpful option for worried parties. Mostly the ability to reference specific Facebook postings should help the Samaritans group offer individualized support and judge the degree of seriousness. For instance, if a user reports a serious threat of suicide Facebook will call the police directly. If it is less concerning, the message will be forwarded to Samaritans. Director of Samaritans’ Northampton branch Sandra Forrester claims, “it is a brilliant idea that we team up with Facebook as it is another way for vulnerable people to know that we are here to support them, and that they aren’t alone.”

Samaritans is a UK-based group, but Facebook told The Next Web that it is involved in similar arrangements with organizations stateside.

The social network is inarguably a central tenant of the way we communicate, and it’s increasingly become a platform for support as well as for some to reach out. Other similar sites, like MySpace, have seen the affects digital bullying and manipulation can have, and these types of online communities are becoming more aware and active of the role they need to play in user safety.