Washington: Facebook is rolling out a new feature for suicide prevention that allows users to report suicidal posts on the social networking site and also contact a helpline or another friend for guidance.
Facebook has announced updated tools that provide more resources, advice and support to people who may be struggling with suicidal thoughts and their concerned friends and family members.
The new effort is part of a collaboration between Facebook and researchers at Forefront: Innovations in Suicide Prevention, an interdisciplinary organization based in the University of Washington's School of Social Work.
When someone sees a post that suggests its author might be considering suicide, they can click on a dropdown menu and report the post to Facebook.
The person who flags the post also has the option to message the potentially suicidal person, contact another Facebook friend for support or connect with a trained professional at a suicide helpline for guidance.
Facebook will then review the reported post. "We have teams working around the world, 24/7, who review any report that comes in. They prioritize the most serious reports, like self-injury, and send help and resources to those in distress," Rob Boyle, Facebook Product Manager, and Nicole Staubli, Facebook Community Operations Safety Specialist wrote in a Facebook post.
If the poster is thought to be in distress, a series of screens will be launched automatically when that person next logs onto Facebook, with suggestions for getting help, 'UW Today' reported.
The responses link to a number of positive options, including videos from Now Matters Now, an online programme started by Forefront research scientist Ursula Whiteside that uses real-life accounts of people who have struggled with suicidal thoughts to provide research-based coping strategies.
"Often, friends and family who are the observers in this situation don't know what to do," said Holly Hetherington, a Facebook content strategist working on the project.
"They're concerned, but they're worried about saying the wrong thing or somehow making it worse. Socially, mental illness and thoughts about suicide are just not something we talk about," Hetherington said.
Stephen Paul Miller, Forefront's operations manager, said that one advantage of the Facebook tools is that they can be used by anyone: a concerned friend, a grandparent or a colleague.
"You don't need to have a degree to be able to meet somebody where they are in their pain and connect them to a resource," he said.
"You just need to know that there's somebody who can help you facilitate that connection, and that's what the Facebook project has the ability to do. This has the potential to save so many lives," Miller said.