Facebook steps up suicide prevention efforts

Facebook steps up suicide prevention efforts

While initiatives for suicide prevention are not new to Facebook, the social media giant is taking its effort one step further with a new added feature.

Previously, the platform joined forces with the National Suicide Prevention Hotline to add a section to the site to report suicidal comments. This initiative, in particular, also focused on people who served in the military.

The site’s disclaimer states:

If you’ve encountered a direct threat of suicide on Facebook, please contact law enforcement or a suicide hotline immediately. If the person you’re worried about is a member of the U.S. military community, be sure to mention this so they can provide this person with custom support.

The new feature now will allow those who see content that may suggest a behavioral health issue such as depression or suicidal thoughts to report the actual post to Facebook. This will then alert Facebook and trigger a series of messages to that person.

The feature will let the user know someone is worried about them. They will then be given the option to contact another friend, or they can chat with a suicide prevention professional. Facebook aligned with several suicide prevention organizations for this effort. See screenshots of the feature in a Huffington Post article, here.

Dr. David Kemp, psychiatrist with Advocate Medical Group and co-medical director of the behavioral health service line at Downers Grove, Ill.-based Advocate Health Care, says that any effort, including on social media, to reduce the suicide rate is laudable.

“In the U.S., someone dies from suicide every 13 minutes,” Dr. Kemp says. “Given how frequently suicide occurs, any way to bring greater awareness to behavioral health concerns is a worthy effort.”

While Dr. Kemp applauds the new Facebook feature, he says there are still more things people can do to help someone who may be posting possible suicidal content on social media.

“I’m skeptical as to whether clicking an anonymous button on Facebook will truly have a beneficial impact on reducing suicide,” he says. “If you are concerned that someone is suicidal, express your concern immediately by talking to that individual personally.”

Dr. Kemp says to get family involved if there is no way of reaching them right away.

“Direct personal intervention can be very powerful at letting a person know they are cared for, and that they don’t have to suffer with managing suicidal thoughts on their own,” he adds. “I believe that would have more of a positive influence than an anonymous post that may never get read.”

This feature has not been rolled out across all of Facebook yet. Only 50 percent of users currently have this available on their profiles, sources report.

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Comments

2 Comments

  1. Hello Sarah, I work for Advocate and read these emails all the time, but the ones that were sent out today are not viewable… I just wanted to make you aware in case others were having this problem- The picture is viewable but no article is seen. Thanks for looking into this.

    Emily Backhus

  2. Linnea Mason May 1, 2015 at 3:14 pm · Reply

    Hi Emily! Thank you for the comment. The site might not be compatible with your web browser. Try opening the story in Internet Explorer 11, Google Chrome or another web browser. Thank you!

About the Author

Sarah Scroggins
Sarah Scroggins

Sarah Scroggins, health enews contributor, is the director of social media at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BA and MA in Communications. When not on social media, she loves reading a good book (or audiobook), watching the latest Netflix series and teaching a college night class.