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Can Facebook Prevent Suicide?
The endemic use of social media means we are more digitally connected than ever before. To that end, people are privy to display their depressed and vulnerable side for millions to bear witness. In the last five years there has been a rash of suicide or murder-suicide posts on social network juggernaut Facebook.
Facebook has just launched a new suicide prevention tool giving users a direct link to an online chat with counselors. Facebook “friends” are able to report suicidal behavior by clicking a report option next to any piece of content on the site and choosing suicidal content under the harmful behavior option, Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens said.
Facebook will then email the user in distress a direct link for a private online chat with a crisis representative from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline as well as the group’s phone number,1-800-273-TALK (8255) .
Users also have the ability to report suicidal behavior by going to the site’s Help Center or search for suicide reporting forms. They can also use reporting links around the site. Worried friends who reported the behavior will also receive a message to say it is being addressed, Wolens said.
Facebook, the most popular Web-based social networking site, has more than 800 million active users worldwide. The Palo Alto, California-based company also has critics who are concerned the tool might not be responsive and that social media is not equipped to deal with suicide crisis. The new suicide reporting tool will be made available to people who use Facebook in the United States and Canada.
Nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day, according to the Surgeon General of the United States. In the past year, more than 8 million Americans 18 or older had thought seriously about suicide, according to a blog post by the Surgeon General accompanying the release of the new Facebook tool.