Facebook offers service to give help to users contemplating suicide
January 2, 2012
At a glance …
• Facebook launches a new service to help prevent suicide.
• Users of the social networking site can report suicidal comments posted by friends.
• The person who posted the comment will immediately receive an email encouraging them to call a suicide prevention hotline.
• The email also will include a link to a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.
• Local mental health officials said the service could be helpful, particularly for younger adults, who are more comfortable communicating on the Internet than in person.
“I just see it as one more way that perhaps people could reach out and report somebody who’s suicidal, be aware that they’re suicidal, (and) help them get help.”
Ronna Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide, on a new Facebook service designed to prevent suicide
People grappling with suicidal thoughts and feelings now have another way to get help, and it comes from a social networking site they potentially visit daily.
Facebook recently launched a new service that allows its users to report suicidal comments posted on the site, according to a news release from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
When someone posts a status update or a comment that expresses suicidal thoughts, that user's friends can report the comment to Facebook.
The person who posted the comment will immediately get an email from Facebook urging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The email also includes a link to a confidential chat session with a crisis worker, according to the release.
To find the service, type "suicide" into the search bar at the top of the Facebook page and click on the "Facebook Help: Suicide" link that appears below.
The link leads to a page that tells users how to report suicidal content posted by friends and includes the form they can use to report those comments.
But, the service isn't designed to replace the role local agencies can play in preventing suicide.
The Facebook website urges users to immediately call local law enforcement or a suicide prevention hotline if someone they know is threatening to take his or her own life.
Ronna Autrey, executive director of Reaching Everyone Preventing Suicide in Moffat and Routt counties, said she's not completely familiar with the new service yet. Based on what she knows about it so far, though, she believes it could prove to be an important tool in stopping suicide.
"I just see it as one more way that perhaps people could reach out and report somebody who's suicidal, be aware that they're suicidal (and) help them get help," she said.
She's seen such a principle at work.
"There's been a few instances in the past two years where we've had young people in their early 20s … who have died by suicide and instantly there's a Facebook page for them," she said.
"And young people have been posting very disturbing quotes on there" that indicated they were having suicidal thoughts, she said.
"We've had to literally have a watch on certain kids because we were concerned about what they were posting on Facebook," Autrey said.
Suicide has taken its toll at national and local levels.
Nearly 100 Americans take their own lives every day, Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin said in the release.
In 2011, suicide took the lives of four people in Craig and six people in Routt County, Autrey said.
She said she believes the new service could be especially useful for young adults, who are usually more comfortable communicating via the Internet than in person.
Gina Toothaker, program director for Colorado West Regional Mental Health in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties, also doesn't know much about the new Facebook service yet, but she believes it could be useful.
"I think there's a lot of statements made that kids throw out there in their status updates," she said. "Social media is kind of a great thing and kind of a scary thing in that regard.
"If they do have something formal now (to prevent suicide), I think it's great that there's another way to catch some of that."
Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or email@example.com.Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Bridget Manley can be reached at 875-1793 or email@example.com.