Worried about suicidal messages online? Click here

By Pieter van Zyl
19 June 2016

Has a friend's depressed post on Facebook ever given you serious cause for concern? Now there's something you can do about it.

“I can’t go on like this any more. The light at the end of the tunnel has faded out forever for me. There’s simply no more hope. Good night and goodbye . . .”

Hair-raising words. Does my Facebook friend intend to commit suicide? What do I do now?

“There are 23 completed suicides every single day in South Africa, and a further 460 attempted suicides every 24 hours,” says Cassey Chambers, of the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag).

This non-profit organisation has been chosen by Facebook to manage its new choice option in South Africa. Facebook links 1,6 million people and is the place where online conversations often mirror what people are thinking and talking about away from social media.

Read more: ‘I’m living a completely different life inside’: Man reveals what living with depression is like in powerful video

It’s disturbing when people, especially on Facebook, insinuate that they want to commit suicide.

Research by Facebook shows that about a third of messages shared on this website include negative feelings. And these posts receive longer and more sympathetic comments than other messages.

FB

“People really want to help friends in distress but often don’t know what to say, what to do or how to help their friends,” says Vanessa Callison-Burch, a spokesperson for Facebook.

The person reporting a suicide note is given a menu of options, including the ability to send a Facebook message directly to the friend in distress or to a mutual friend to coordinate help.

Read more: This everyday thing can increase your chance of depression

Facebook also suggests messages to send that are usually suggested by people such as psychologists in such circumstances. You receive contact details for places your friend can approach for help.

This is where Sadag’s role becomes important. With more than 20 years’ experience as an organisation providing help in the mental health field, Sadag has built up a database of the best local experts in the field of suicide prevention.

“Besides encouraging the person in distress to connect with Sadag, we also provide them with self-help tips and advice to work through negative feelings”, says Sadag’s Cassey Chambers.

Sadag’s Suicide Crisis Line’s number is 0800-567-567, or  SMS 31393.

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