Facebook has teamed up with the Samaritans confidential emotional health service to allow Facebook users to report, through Facebook, if they are concerned that one of their Facebook friends is exhibiting suicidal tendancies, or threatening suicide. If a Facebook user reports (at the link included below) that they are concerned about a Facebook friend’s suicidal thoughts or talk of suicide, the Samaritans will reach out to that friend.
What isn’t clear is how they will contact them, and, also of concern is that the promise is to contact the person “within 12 hours”, by which time, of course, it may be too late.
It also isn’t clear whether Samaritans – a U.K.-based organization, will reach out to everyone, or just U.K.-based users.
Still, it’s a commendable effort.
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Says Catherine Johnstone, CEO of Samaritans, “Facebook is a part of daily life for so many of us and we must make sure that people online have support when they need it. We are harnessing the power of friendship so people can get help – as a friend you are better placed to know whether someone close to you is struggling to cope or even feeling suicidal.”
“Samaritans have worked with Facebook to put in place a system that enables people to help their friends get help,” said a Facebook spokesperson.
Added Clare Wyllie, Head of Policy and Research at Samaritans, “It is inevitable that, as the online environment becomes ever more intertwined in our daily lives, it will play a role in suicidal behaviour, for good and for bad. On the one hand, the internet creates new risks and challenges for suicide prevention, while, on the other hand, it also creates new possibilities for reaching vulnerable people.”
In an online world where 1500 people watched and did nothing as a teen commited suicide in front of his webcam, it’s clear that Wyllie is right about the role that the Internet plays, good and bad, and Facebook is clearly working to be on the ‘good’ side of that equation.
Samaritans is staffed by trained volunteers, numbering about 17,000, and clearly they know what they are doing. One testimonial on the Samaritans site says “I spent three hours on the phone last night telling a complete stranger about my depression, anxiety and suicidal feelings. I’d never told anyone before. Today I feel like a different person. My troubles have not gone but a problem shared has been a problem halved. Thank you.”
Here is a copy of the Facebook form to report suicidal content; the image is linked to the actual form on Facebook’s site. Or go directly to the Facebook form to report a suicide threat or suicidal content here.
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