Facebook to add suicide prevention tool

Facebook is rolling out a new feature across the UK to help users who feel suicidal.

Thursday, 25th February 2016, 2:17 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th February 2016, 2:20 pm

The Suicide Prevention tool has been developed in connection with the Samaritans and aims to try and provide advice and support for those struggling to cope, as well as for their friends and family.

People can now report posts they are worried about in a more direct way.

Versions of the tool were launched in the US a year ago and in Australia in December.

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Julie de Bailliencourt, EMEA safety policy manager at Facebook, said the social media giant has a ‘really strong sense of responsibility towards the safety of people who are on our platform’.

“We felt that while we’ve been working with the Samaritans for a number of years, we wanted to take this partnership to a whole new level.”

People who see explicit threats of suicide are asked to call emergency services. Otherwise people are asked to flag troubling content to Facebook. That will then be sent to a team who work around the clock reviewing posts.

Suicidal posts are prioritised and help options are sent to those people who Facebook think are struggling to cope.

When asked if this could lead people to use the reporting feature to bully people who aren’t suicidal by continually reporting posts, Julie added:”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.”

As well as people being encouraged to connect with someone at the Samaritans, users are also asked if they want to connect with a friend.

Although Facebook have to take action if they fear a person is at risk, anonymity is a key feature of someone’s relationship with a Samaritan’s worker. Even if you contact a Samaritan through Facebook, your details are not passed on.

Samaritans CEO Ruth Sutherland said: “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.”

Facebook also say they have “significantly expanded the support available” the next time the person logs on to Facebook after posting something of concern.

They also say they are providing “new resources and support to the person who flagged the troubling post, including options for them to call or message their distressed friend letting them know they care, or reaching out to another friend or a trained volunteer for support.”