Facebook has launched its suicide prevention feature, which it announced back in February. Although users could report what they perceive to be suicidal content as early as 2011, the feature has been made more prominent and accessible. In addition, those struggling with thoughts of self-harm and suicide can also seek help.
Once a post is reported as suicidal, the person experiencing suicidal thoughts will get a notification saying a friend is concerned about their recent post, and then they will be given options to either talk to another Facebook friend, or to access resources for those experiencing suicidal thoughts. If the latter option is chosen, the person is sent to a list of resources regarding suicide prevention to help them figure out what they can do about the situation immediately, contact a self-care expert, or learn how to deal with suicidal thoughts.
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Now Matters Now, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Save.org, and Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention are some of the suicide prevention organizations that Facebook has partnered with in preparation for the launch of this feature. Currently, the updated resources regarding suicide prevention are available to about half of all Facebook users in the United States. Facebook emphasized the need to connect with those who care, such as the user’s family and friends, in its February post. “One of the first things these organizations discussed with us was how much connecting with people who care can help those in distress. If someone on Facebook sees a direct threat of suicide, we ask that they contact their local emergency services immediately,” they said.
There have been many suicides that have originated as a social media post. One of the most recent cases involved transgender game developer Rachel Bryk, who committed suicide on April 23 because of excess cyber harassment. Also, according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, suicide pacts via the Internet originated in Japan in 2000. The study stated that out of 240 search engine terms containing the following phrases (“suicide,” “suicide methods,” “how to kill yourself,” and “best suicide methods”), around half were pro-suicide.
Although it might be too early to tell whether or not it will make an impact, it is a step in the right direction and allows Facebook users — both concerned friends and family and those experiencing suicidal thoughts — to take an active role in preventing suicide that might start off as a social media post.