Facebook users can report suicidal behavior with new online tool
Facebook has a new service that will enable users of the social network to report friends who have expressed suicidal thoughts and make sure they get an offer of help from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Friends will be able to report suicidal behavior by clicking a report option next to any content on the site and choosing suicidal content under the harmful behavior option, Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens told Reuters.
Facebook will then send the suicidal person an email that will encourage them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (phone number included). The email will also include a link that will enable those who would prefer not to talk on the phone to begin a confidential online chat session with a crisis worker.
Facebook and Lifeline have been working together since 2006 to provide help to at-risk users of the social networking site, but this is the first time Facebook is making online chat sessions available to its users as an option for suicide prevention.
"Although the Lifeline on average handles 70,000 calls per month, we have heard from our Facebook fans and others that there are many people in crisis who don't feel comfortable picking up the phone," John Draper, Lifeline's project director, said in a statement. "This new service provides a way for them to get the help they need in the way they want it."
Lifeline said they will make sure that crisis center workers will be available 24 hours a day seven days a week to respond to Facebook users who prefer to use a chat session.
Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin commended Facebook and Lifeline for addressing suicide — which she described as one of America's most tragic public health programs. In a statement she said that nearly 100 Americans die by suicide every day.
"We have effective treatments to help suicidal individuals regain hope and a desire to live and we know how powerful personal connections and support can be," she said. "Therefore we as a nation must do everything we can to reach out and provide them with the help and hope needed to survive and return to productive lives with their family, friends and communities."
Photo: Heather Rosenbaum works her regular volunteer shift at a suicide prevention hotline on Christmas Day 2001. Credit: Clarene Williams / Los Angeles Times