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Facebook Tackles Suicide Prevention Worldwide

By David Jones
Jun 16, 2016 10:06 AM PT
facebook-suicide-prevention

Facebook on Tuesday said it will roll out its suicide prevention tools and resources around the world.

Already available in the U.S., the resources are designed to help members who may be thinking about committing suicide or otherwise hurting themselves, as well as family and friends who are concerned about their loved ones' well being.

Members can use the updated resources either to contact the vulnerable person directly or to contact Facebook, which has teams of workers dedicated to making sure a Facebook member in distress is able to find help before pain or sadness turns into something far more serious, said Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis and researcher Jennifer Guadagno in a post announcing the expansion.

Helping Hands

Facebook originally launched the program with mental health partners including Forefront, Lifeline and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education.

Among the tools available on the site are links to suicide prevention hotlines; links to guide users to friends, family or other professionals who might help talk them through a situation; and links and toll-free numbers to various international suicide prevention and mental health groups.

There are also links to eating disorder organizations, to websites offering self-care tips, and to sites for reporting online bullying and other abusive behavior. There are links for parents and educators who feel their child or student may be at risk.

The tools are available in the local languages where members are based, according to Facebook.

The resources have been instrumental in reaching people looking for a way to cope with various challenges, but finding it difficult to communicate through traditional channels.

"The idea is that Facebook provides assistance vis a vis their network to people who are concerned about somebody," said Jennifer Stuber, faculty director at Forefront.

"They see a post about a potential suicide or people who are suicidal, [and] they provide access to information about resources," she told TechNewsWorld.

Heavy Toll on Youth

"Facebook has been incredibly responsive and interested in hearing from experts and users of their tools to improve them," observed Dan Reidenberg, executive director at Save.org.

"They have continually worked to try and help people who are in anything from a minor crisis to a major life-threatening situation, and they have developed some of the best technology and tools to save lives," he told TechNewsWorld.

Facebook initially launched its suicide prevention efforts in 2011 with several initiatives, including a link to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

There were 42,773 deaths by suicide in the U.S. in 2014, Save.org pointed out, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall, and the second leading cause of death among 15-24-year-olds.

Worldwide, more than 800,000 people die of suicide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Facebook, which has 1.65 billion monthly active users, is the world's most powerful social network. It has been forced to navigate numerous controversies over the years with regard to suicides, cyberbullying, online harassment, and other related issues affecting its members.

Facebook early last year issued updated community standards designed to crack down on various forms of harassment, including hate speech, trolling and cyberbullying.


David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.


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No way -- if there's a screw-up, you can't just jump out.
I'd do it -- flights are pretty much entirely automated anyway.
I'm skeptical but open minded, especially if fares would be much less.
I would try it if there were *someone* on board to take over in a pinch.
It's the wave of the future -- I'm resigned to it.