Facebook’s suicide prevention tools connect friends, test privacy

May 22, 2015

News Type:  Weekly Spark, Weekly Spark News

National Public Radio

With a recently launched feature, Facebook is attempting to help friends respond to posts that could indicate a person is at risk for suicide. When people read a post that worries them, they can use the feature to send a standardized message of concern that offers tips for getting through emotional challenges, as well as contact information for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Research by Scottye Cash, a professor of social work at Ohio State University, has shown young people to be increasingly likely to seek help online rather than either face-to-face or through traditional phone-based hotlines. She said that evaluation of Facebook’s program will be key: “People that made the initial report and those who received the report — did they find this was something that is acceptable to them?” The new program, developed with input from suicide prevention organizations, was welcomed by Sally Spencer-Thomas, CEO of the Carson J Spencer Foundation, which supports the development of suicide prevention programs. “This tool gives friends something to do and communicate in constructive ways,” she said.

Spark Extra! Check out TEAM Up’s Social Media Guidelines for Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention.