Suicidal thoughts are often hidden deep into the recesses of the troubled individual’s mind, stored away from those that might have the opportunity to intervene and save a life. However, hiding behind a computer screen allows those same individuals the opportunity to share their thoughts to the plethora of faceless friends that they collect within websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and more. Yet, little has been done to use social media as a means of adequately preventing and intervening with suicidal individuals, until now.
Facebook has seen its share of individuals publicly post about their thoughts of suicide. In some instances, the posts were cries for help, in others they were a dire warning that the individual has given up on life, yet in still other ways social media has become a platform to demean the individual; as was the case of Amanda Todd.
With such a large reach across the globe, Facebook has decided to implement new tools for suicide prevention and allow friends, family, and casual acquaintances, to report behaviors that might hint at suicidal tendencies. Metro reports that the suicide prevention tool was developed with a group called the Samaritans.
The tool allows individuals to report a post, similarly to the way you would report a post that goes against the terms of service for Facebook, but send the individual a message that offers options to speak to someone about the suicidal thoughts as well as a means to get tips and support.
“You matter to us, so we want to offer you support if you need it. You’re not alone — we do this for many people every month. What would you like to do?”
Although the suicide prevention tool is new in the United Kingdom, the United States has had a similar tool for a about a year now and Australia has had the tool since December, according to the BBC. However, it has not been readily advertised, and many individuals do not even know it exists.
As with the reporting feature that is currently used on Facebook, there is a possibility that the suicide prevention tool will be misused. Many users have seen their images reported for nudity and abuse when neither existed within the image or post. However, Julie de Bailiencourt, EMEA Safety Policy Manager at Facebook, claims that she does not see abuse or misuse of the feature to be that big of an issue overall.
“I think people using reporting tools are responsible, they know this is a serious case and not to over abuse these areas. We haven’t noticed this. The language we’re using is quite empathetic — it’s saying hey someone’s worried about you and here are things we think may be useful.”
Facebook revealed that if an individual is at risk of suicide, they are required and responsible to take action to intervene. The suicide prevention tool is the first step in that process.
Ruth Sutherland, CEO of the Samaritans, claims that the first step to intervention is to begin the discussion and that speaking to an anonymous person sometimes makes that discussion easier.
“If people can start to talk about the unbearable pain that they’re facing, we can interrupt that journey towards suicide. Suicide is not inevitable, it is preventable. This tools plays a really vital role in achieving that.”
“They sometimes put out subtle things like ‘I dont think I can face tomorrow’ or ‘it’s all feeling a bit black’ or ‘I’m feeling useless.’ These are opportunities not to be missed. One of the worst things about being bereaved by suicide is people’s feeling that there were missed opportunities.”
[Photo by Filipe Frazao/Shutterstock]