Facebook launches suicide prevention tool

2011-12-14 10:53

Facebook launched a new suicide prevention tool yesterday, giving users a direct link to an online chat with counsellors who can help, the company said.

Friends are able to report suicidal behaviour by clicking a report option next to any piece of content on the site and choosing suicidal content under the harmful behaviour option, said Facebook spokesperson Frederic Wolens.

Facebook will then email the user in distress a direct link for a private online chat with a crisis representative from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as well as the group’s phone number.

The new tool gives people who may not be comfortable picking up the phone a direct avenue to seek help.

“This was a natural progression from something we’ve been working on for a long time,” Wolens said.

Users also have the ability to report suicidal behaviour by going to the site’s Help Centre or search for suicide reporting forms. They can also use reporting links around the site.

Worried friends who reported the behaviour will also receive a message to say it is being addressed, Wolens said.

Facebook, the most popular Web-based social networking site, has more than 800 million active users worldwide. The California-based company was co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004.

The new suicide reporting tool will be made available to people who use Facebook in the US and Canada.

Wolens said that all reporting on the site is done anonymously and so a distressed user will not know who reported the suicidal content.

Nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day, according to the Surgeon General of the US.

In the past year, more than 8 million Americans 18 or older had thought seriously about suicide, according to a blog post by the Surgeon General accompanying the release of the new Facebook tool.

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